In the early 1900s in the arid West, C. W. McConaughy recognized the discontinuity between high river flows in the spring and low flows in the middle of summer, when farmers needed water most. McConaughy, a grain merchant and mayor of Holdrege, Nebraska, developed the idea of supplemental irrigation.

We all know that water flows downhill, seeking its own level, flowing to the sea. Water is a primary force shaping our planet and environment. It will erode rock, move soil, and, in its frozen form as glaciers, sculpt mountains, valleys, and plains. I’ve been traveling upstream on the North Platte River through western Nebraska, […]

A couple weeks ago, Ariana Brocious and I were reporting on sugar beets in the western Nebraska panhandle. We packed several interviews into two days talking with large-scale farmers and small-scale farmers, irrigation district managers and natural resource managers. It’s amazing how much there is to know about water policy and the effects humans have […]

Follow a snowflake from the Colorado Rockies through Wyoming dams and reservoirs to fields in the Nebraska panhandle.

A series of bathtubs dot Wyoming’s North Platte River, filling and releasing water for summer irrigation, power generation, and recreation. During western expansion, it became necessary to control the river, building dams and reservoirs that helped to regulate flow between seasons and wet and dry years.

Rushing out of Kortes Dam, fluctuating currents run through the rugged Seminoe Mountains and out into the arid Wyoming plains until the North Platte River’s waters reach Pathfinder Reservoir. With a beautiful landscape surrounding the river, and swift, cold water filled with brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout, this five and half mile stretch of the North Platte River has earned itself the name, “The Miracle Mile.”

In recent years, the river has formed an S-shaped route a short distance upstream from the measurement weir and has caused the riverbanks near the gauging station to erode, threatening to bypass the weir itself.