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Harlan County Reservoir more than recreational area
PHOTO COURTESY JORN OLSEN
Each year over 500,000 people visit Harlan County Reservoir in south central Nebraska, making it one of the state’s top 10 tourist attractions as ranked by the Nebraska Tourism Commission.
Visitors from across the state as well as from out-of-state flock to the reservoir to enjoy fishing, camping, hunting, boating and other water sports. They also are able to take advantage of the outdoors by river tubing, bird watching, attending community festivals, and ATV riding on one of the Midwest’s only professionally designed and constructed trail systems. They can learn about the area’s history at a well-maintained county museum, and find a good variety of unique, locally-owned retail shops and restaurants.
Many of these visitors are unaware that the Harlan County Reservoir was initially created by the government due to the need to control flooding in the Republican River Valley. Named for the “Republican” band of the Pawnee Nation whose members lived and hunted in the area, the Republican River was prone to periodic severe flooding. In 1935 settlers learned why the Pawnee had warned them about building too closely to the river. In early June of that year, an eight foot wall of water came crashing through the valley, killing over 100 people and destroying most bridges and many farm buildings. A series of dams and reservoirs including the one in Harlan County were then built to prevent another disaster.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is charged with managing the dam and the lake for the purposes— in priority order— of flood control, irrigation, recreation and natural resources. Most other lakes around the state are managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, with a select few managed by irrigation districts.
In addition, the Corps manages the land around the reservoir for multi-purpose use including, but not limited to, recreation and wildlife benefits, as well as managing several campgrounds. There are also several private and city-managed campgrounds and marinas around the lake.
Recognizing that the Harlan County Reservoir is a major tourist attraction in the state and that its benefits are extremely important to the local economy, the Corps works both alone and in partnership with other government agencies and community groups to preserve and promote the recreational aspects of the lake and surrounding land.
Harlan County Reservoir more than recreational area PHOTO COURTESY JORN OLSEN Each year over 500,000 people visit H..
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