“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Alma in Harlan County, Nebraska — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

The Changing Shoreline

The Irrigation System

The Changing Shoreline Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Charles T. Harrell, June 30, 2011
1. The Changing Shoreline Marker
Inscription.   Like most reservoirs in Nebraska, Harlan County Reservoir was created to store water for flood control and irrigation. In the fall, winter, and spring water flowing down the Republican River is stored, to be used during the summer to water croplands. From spring to the end of irrigation season, the level of the lake can drop several feet. As the lake is drawn down, the value of the reservoir for wildlife changes.

In spring the lake is full. Water might be up to the bank. The lake provides habitat for migrating birds, especially those adapted to deeper water—diving ducks, mergansers, cormorants, osprey, and white pelicans.

By fall, the shallow water and smartweed may extend hundreds of feet out from the bank, attracting hundreds of migrating waterfowl. If the soil remains somewhat wet, the smartweed will produce abundant seeds providing high energy food for ducks, and a seed bank for the following year.

During the summer, water is drawn from the reservoir for irrigation. Shallow water becomes a hunting ground for wading birds like the great blue herons and great and snowy

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egrets. By August, receding water has exposed bare mudflats—habitat for gulls and shorebirds that probe in the mud for aquatic insects and crustaceans. Among these are killdeer, dowitchers, avocets, sandpipers, Franklin’s and ring-billed gulls, Forster’s and black terns. In the moist soil left behind by the receding water, annual plants such as smartweed, a favorite duck food, germinate.

As the irrigation season ends, the lake again begins to store water for the next growing season. The smartweed becomes flooded, making the plant food available to migrating waterfowl. Opportunities for gulls and late migrating shorebirds persist well into the fall, for some gulls, (ring-billed gulls, for example) even into winter. In most winters, hardy mallards and Canada geese can be found on open water and in nearby flowing streams.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: AnimalsEnvironment.
Location. 40° 5.767′ N, 99° 21.841′ W. Marker is in Alma, Nebraska, in Harlan County. Marker is on W. South Street, 0.3 miles east of U.S. 183, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 800 W South Street, Alma NE 68920, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 1 other marker is within walking distance of this marker. Fish-Eating Birds (here, next to this marker).

The Changing Shoreline Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Charles T. Harrell, June 30, 2011
2. The Changing Shoreline Marker
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on August 4, 2011, by Charles T. Harrell of Woodford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 484 times since then and 19 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 4, 2011, by Charles T. Harrell of Woodford, Virginia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Dec. 9, 2023