USGS Logo Geological Survey Professional Paper 17
Preliminary Report on the Geology and Water Resources of Nebraska West of the One Hundred and Third Meridian



This stream traverses the central portion of the area and, although it is shallow during the greater portion of the year, carries a relatively large body of water. Its flow is subject to seasonal variations, ranging from a wide, deep torrent in late spring and the first month of summer to a shallow, irregular network of streams flowing among sand bars in the later summer and autumn. It has been estimated that at Gering the North Platte drainage area is 24,340 square miles; at Camp Clarke about 24,830 square miles; and at North Platte 28,517 square miles. The details of river measurements at these three points are given in Water-Supply and Irrigation Paper No. 15, on pages 84, 85, and 86, respectively, and the results of computations of discharge on pages 308 to 310 of Part IV of the Nineteenth Annual Report. Reference should also be made to the data given in Part IV of the Eighteenth Annual Report, on pages 153 to 158, inclusive, and in Bulletin No. 140, on pages 99 to 102.

Estimated monthly discharge of North Platte Riper at Camp Clarke, Nebraska.

Date. Maximum. Minimum. Mean.

1896. Second-feet. Second-feet. Second-feet.
June 28—30 4,100 3,102 3,508
July 1—31 2,386 977 1,554
August 1—31 1,316 628 924
September 1—30 1,186 738 939
October 1—31 1,290 875 1,008
November 1—8 1,238 706 1,091

January 2,404 2,042 2,287
February 2,404 1,567 2,253
March 2,223 450 1,299
April 8,390 1,567 3,649
May 10,540 6,885 8,688
June 11,400 4,520 7,401
July 4,305 930 2,147
August 2,042 580 1,066
September 580 400 492
October 580 350 484
November --- --- a500
December --- --- a500

A large volume of the water is taken out of the river at intervals in Scotts Bluff and Cheyenne counties by the various irrigation canals, so that the reports at Gering and Camp Clarke do not indicate the total volume of water which enters the State from the west. It should be borne in mind also that under the bed of the river there is considerable thickness of coarse sand containing an underflow of which the volume is far greater than that flowing on the surface in dry weather.

North Platte River receives a number of minor branches between the mouth of Pumpkinseed Creek and the Wyoming line. They head in the high ridge to the south and in the edge of the high table-land on the north. With the exception of Horse Creek, their surface waters do not extend to the river, and some of them usually are entirely dry to their heads. There is, however, generally a small underflow through the coarse materials in their beds. The largest volumes of water are from the north, in Dugout, Indian, Red Willow, Winter, Spottedtail, and Sheep creeks. These all head in living springs high up in the canyons, but the waters run only a short distance and sink into the coarse materials, where their volume as underflows is probably not large. Very little water flows out of the ridge extending from Courthouse Rock to the headwaters of Kiowa Creek, and except in the heads of a few canyons where there are springs the valleys are dry and appear to have but scant underflow. Horse Creek carries a moderate volume of water from some high ridges in Wyoming.


The wide valley of Pumpkinseed Creek is traversed by a small stream which heads in the northwest portion of Banner County, in springs and seeps which gather considerable volume in the vicinity of Ashford. Additional supplies are received to the east, but the stream increases in size very gradually. It enters North Platte River near Lapeer. Some gagings made near its mouth were as follows: July 26, 1894, 17.1 feet; June 28, 1896, 22.2 feet.

The stream has numerous branches, but these contribute only surface water during the more rainy portion of the year. They nearly all have underflows of small volume, for their beds consist of gravels and sands into which the water sinks to the "hardpan" floor, and, moving slowly underground, adds materially to the volume of the underflow of the main creek. The principal affluent is Lawrence Fork, which contains a considerable volume of water in Ts. 17 and 18, R. 52, but this water finally sinks during the summer and flows underground for 2 miles to join the main creek near Redington. The other branches—Greenwood, Hackberry, and Bighorn creeks, Indian Springs, and Willow Creek—all contain some water in the upper portions of their valleys, but this water sinks into the coarse material of the valleys before it reaches Pumpkinseed Creek. The branches from the north are dry coulees in greater part. They contain water from very small springs in the vicinity of their heads.


The waters of Lodgepole Creek rise in Wyoming and, gradually gaining volume, enter Nebraska with a flow which, in August, 1895, was found to be 3.5 cubic feet a second. At about the same time the creek was found to flow 4 cubic feet a second at the north-south line between secs. 34 and 35, T. 15, R. 57. The volume varies greatly from point to point, but there appears to be a good underflow. For portions of its course the entire volume of the stream is diverted into irrigation ditches. In summer the creek becomes perfectly dry from the vicinity of sec. 28, T. 15, R. 54, for about 12 miles, to a point near the south line of sec. 4, T. 14, R. 52, where the water again appears, running 2-1/4 cubic feet a second at first, and then at a dam one-half mile below 4 cubic feet a second. Their are in this vicinity many short ditches which take all or the greater portion of the water and leave the creek dry below the dam in the SE. 1/4 sec. 14, T. 14, R. 51. It continues dry through sec. 13 and nearly through sec. 19, but near the east line of sec. 19 the water again rises to the surface and flows 2 cubic feet a second for a short distance. Then the creek is dry nearly to sec. 36, T. 14, R. 50, where there is a flow of about one-half a second-foot, which is diverted into irrigation ditches.

All these measurements were made in August, 1895, by Mr. Adna Dobson, as given in the first report of the State board of irrigation for 1895 and 1896. A measurement of the Lodgepole made at Kimball by Mr. Youngfelt on June 26, 1896, indicated 4.5 second-feet.

Several tributaries empty into the valley of Lodgepole Creek, but they do not contain flowing waters except in times of freshet. The principal one is Sidney Draw with its two branches, heading in the high table-land far westward in Kimball County, south of Lodgepole Valley. The branches which empty into Lodgepole Creek from the north head in high table-lands a short distance back and descend to the valley as dry coulees with steep declivities. Some contain underflows from springs which ordinarily do not have sufficient volume to reach the surface.


Snake Creek is a stream which heads in the southeast corner of Sioux County, mainly among the sand hills, and flows in a very shallow valley over the table-land north of the valley of North Platte River. It receives waters from various springs, but its flow over the surface is intermittent and the volume of water relatively small. Its principal branch is from the north, known as Point of Rocks Creek, which contains a spring of fair size, but flows mainly underground.


This stream flows in a relatively shallow depression in the summit of the high table-lands lying between North Platte and White rivers. It enters Nebraska from Wyoming, and is a fine running stream of considerable volume throughout its course. For this reason it was called by the Indians Niobrara, meaning "running water." This translation is still much in use, and the French equivalent, "L'eau qui court," is occasionally heard.

We have only two reports on the volume of the river, one of gaging made by Mr. E. T. Youngfelt June 23, 1896, at Marsland, where the flow was found to be 4 second-feet, which seems incredibly small, and the other, a measurement made by Prof. L. E. Hicks in range 51, Dawes County, of 98 second-feet on September 4, 1887.

The principal branch which this stream receives in western Nebraska is Whistle Creek, a flowing stream of small volume which heads in Coyote Springs. The other branches are very small and do not have flowing water at the surface.


The valley heading in Pine Ridge a short distance east of Harrison and opening diagonally out of the high lands near Crawford contains the headwaters of White River. From its head springs, near Andrews, it is a running stream which gradually increases in volume to the northeast and becomes a prominent river before leaving Nebraska. During the greater part of 1897 a gaging station was maintained at Crawford, Nebr., the results obtained being given on page 299 of Part IV of the Nineteenth Annual Report. The following gagings by Mr. E. T. Youngfelt indicate the volume of White River in early summer and the rate of flow of a number of its branches at various points:

Discharge measurements of White River and some of its branches. a

Stream. Date. Locality. Discharge
per second.

Cubic feet.
White RiverJune 24, 1896Sec. 23, T. 31 N., R. 53 W23.30
   Do   doCrawford30.70
   DoJune 25, 1896Whitney27.20
   DoJune 1, 1891Chadron123.00
Soldier CreekJune 24, 1896Fort Robinson3.23
White Clay Creek   doN. line sec. 2, T. 31 N., R. 52 W.4.00
Fort Robinson ditch   doFort Robinson.79
Squaw Creek   doN. line sec. 1, T. 31 N., R. 52 W..66
West Ash CreekJune 25, 1896N. line sec. 25, T. 32 N., R. 51 W.1.73
East Ash Creek   doHalf mile above month1.09
Little Cottonwood Creek   doSec. 7, T. 32 N, R. 51 W..10
Big Cottonwood Creek   do6 miles west of Whitney.20
Indian Creek   doNear mouth.06
aEighteenth Ann. Rept. U. S. Geol. Survey (for 1896-97), pt. 4, 1897, p. 193.

White River receives numerous branches from the deep canyons in the north face of Pine Ridge between Glen station and Chadron, notably from White Clay, Ash, Indian, and Chadron creeks. Its principal affluent on the north side is Soldier Creek, which heads in T. 32, R. 54, and furnishes a considerable volume of water, in part used in irrigation at Fort Robinson. Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood, Lone Tree, and Rush creeks are the principal branches from the north and west. They furnish but small amounts of water and are usually in greater part dry during midsummer.


Hat Creek and its numerous branches head in deep canyons along the north face of Pine Ridge from Round Top to the Wyoming line. A large amount of water is supplied by the head streams, notably Hat Creek and Sowbelly, Prairie Dog, Monroe, Warbonnet, and Jim creeks, but the amount diminishes rapidly by evaporation as the edge of South Dakota is approached. The branches which head, among the low hills north of Pine Ridge contain water only in the rainy portion of the year.

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Last Updated: 24-Aug-2009