Platte River Basin
Silver Creek, Nebraska; Merrick County
The Platte River spans 310 miles in length – more than half of Nebraska’s 430 miles. The Platte River Basin is one of the most significant tributary systems in the watershed of the Missouri with a combined drainage area of 86,000 square miles in Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming.
For the communities along the Platte River in central Nebraska, it is vital for drinking water, irrigation, wildlife, ecotourism, recreation, and municipal and industrial uses. The Platte River is central Nebraska’s primary surface water feature; however, most farmers rely on groundwater for their irrigation needs since groundwater is abundantly available. The water supply is under continuous monitoring and management to address potential shortages.
The Platte River and its adjacent wet meadows, forests, grasslands, and croplands provide habitat for millions of migratory birds including roughly 80 percent of the continent’s Sandhill Cranes. The central Platte River is a critical nesting site and a stopover point for birds migrating through the Central Flyway en route to their summer breeding grounds, some as far north as northern Canada and the Arctic. Waterfowl make extensive use of area habitats and diverse assemblages of songbirds make significant use of riparian forests and grasslands. Resident upland game birds and big game provide area hunters with many sporting opportunities. Mammal, fish, reptile, and amphibian species are also abundant.
The Platte River has a long history of serving people’s water needs. Varying cultures of indigenous peoples lived intermittently along the Platte for thousands of years before European exploration. Numerous historical trails “followed the water” across Nebraska including the Oregon, Mormon, Overland, California Trails, and the Pony Express. In time, irrigation canals, dams, and water projects were built to provide water for thirsty crops and growing cities.
Check out Nearby: Richard Plautz Crane Viewing Deck
With convenient access off Interstate 80, this area south of Gibbon provides a safe platform for spectacular views of cranes, herons, egrets, pelicans, and many other birds. The site consists of two elevated wooden viewing decks, a 1,650-foot paved trail and a paved parking lot.
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