When Rivers Change: Why is Iowa’s Carter Lake in Nebraska?

Although they appear to be immobile, rivers actually serve as excellent natural barriers. When rivers shift, what happens? Why is Carter Lake in Iowa in Nebraska?

Where Is the City of Carter Lake?

Located just to the north of Omaha, Nebraska, the City of Carter Lake is regarded as a suburb of the metropolis. It is roughly two square miles in size and is located west of Council Bluffs, Iowa. It is named for Carter Lake, which forms the city’s northern boundary arc.

The citizenry of the City of Carter Lake, numbering little under 4,000, are all inhabitants of Iowa. But they have to go through Nebraska to get to their city. Nebraska forms the entire perimeter of the City of Carter Lake, with the exception of its border with the Missouri River.

At half a mile, the City of Carter Lake is home to one of the nation’s smallest highways. It’s Highway 165 along this section of road.

What Is the State Line Between Nebraska and Iowa?

The Missouri River’s main channel runs through the majority of Nebraska and Iowa. On the other hand, the pinched-off P-shaped region between the lake’s southern rim and the river is in Iowa, while Carter Lake’s outer borders are in Nebraska.

A few decades before Nebraska became a state, in 1846, Iowa became a state. The Missouri River’s center was chosen as the border between Iowa and the unorganized region that is now Nebraska when the state’s borders were drawn.

It has proven difficult to draw a boundary near the middle of the Missouri River. The Missouri River in this area was a braided watercourse prior to contemporary river confinement. Sometimes spring flooding from ice breakage forced the main channel to move.

Along the Missouri River’s main channel, the Army Corps of Engineers implemented specific flood control measures starting in 1935. The Missouri River is not anticipated to change in the future as it has in the past.

July 8, 1877: The Missouri River Flood

Up to July 8, 1877, the Saratoga Bend was a functional riverine watercourse that was a portion of the Missouri River. The Missouri River experienced a massive flood in March 1877, which caused the river’s flow to change by roughly 1.25 miles southeast. A few months later, in July, the Saratoga Bend was completely isolated from the Missouri River’s main channel and was dubbed Cutoff Lake.

An avulsion is the term for the occurrence that formed Cutoff Lake, also known as Carter Lake. An abrupt switch from the existing major river channel to a new one is known as an avulsion. This is the result of an occurrence that causes water to prefer a deeper channel with higher walls, allowing for less obstruction in the flow of water. The sloping Saratoga Bend was in this instance scraped off.

The Oxbow Lake: What Is Carter Lake, Iowa?

An oxbow lake is Carter Lake. It was once named Cutoff Lake when it was created. It is also referred to as the East Omaha Lake in certain publications. Before taking on its current name of Carter Lake, it was known as Lake Nakoma.

When a river’s main channel abruptly splits off and produces a lake, the result is known as an oxbow lake. The primary river channel is no longer connected to this lake. The reason these lakes are curved, resembling the collar of a plow that was fastened to an ox’s back during agricultural work, is why they are known as oxbow lakes.

Why Is Carter Lake an Iowan City West of the Missouri River?

Despite being in Iowa, the City of Carter Lake is located west of the Missouri River. Carter Lake was deemed to be a part of Iowa by the US Supreme Court in 1892 because the state line followed the Missouri River’s pre-flood borders.

Despite this, there have been questionable disagreements over who is responsible for providing the City of Carter Lake with utilities, mail service, and other necessities. Iowa owned the land, but despite inhabitants paying municipal taxes to that Iowan city, Council Bluffs, a neighboring community, refused to offer services.

After growing resentful, the populace declared their desire to join Nebraska. Omaha, though, declined to offer assistance. Nonetheless, Carter Lake is now officially recognized as an Iowan city.

The Omaha Public Power District provides Carter Lake with electricity services. Black Hills Energy serves several states and provides its gas services.

Carter Lake in Iowa: What Lives in the Lake?

Fish are indigenous to Carter Lake. Largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, green sunfish, channel catfish, and common carp are some of these fish. It is periodically supplied with more channel catfish and northern pike.

Birdwatching is a well-liked pastime in the Carter Lake area. Ducks, swans, and geese are commonplace. Bald eagles also make frequent visits to this area. Occasionally, lucky birdwatchers may sight up to twelve bald eagles.

The conservation of the lake’s ecosystems is the main goal of the Carter Lake Preservation Society. In the past, volunteers would sometimes get together and labor the land by hand during the warm seasons, but this hasn’t happened in a while. The group is based in Iowa, but it convenes at Levi Carter Park in Nebraska.

Activities at Iowa’s Carter Lake

Carter Lake has been a popular recreational area ever since it was established. This remains the same, and it is now a well-liked place to go boating, fishing, swimming, and camping. The most well-liked recreation areas are in Nebraska on the lake’s northern shore, despite the fact that Carter Lake itself is located in Iowa.

These days, businesses hire out boats, jet skis, and water skis for usage on Carter Lake. Boaters, fishermen, and other individuals are welcome to bring their equipment to the area. There are two public boat ramps that get a lot of use in the summer.

A nice place for a day excursion is Levi Carter Park, which is located on Carter Lake’s northern coast. There are covered picnic spaces, restrooms, and fishing sites that are accessible to those with disabilities.