Some few years after government-paid crews of men moved across the dunes and valleys of the desolate sand hills, their ordeals in marking the first-ever boundaries of the frontier for the government land office, a list of some of the prominent lakes they indicated within this region of Nebraska, was issued in 1881 by C.D. Wilber, in his book: The Great Valleys and Prairies of Nebraska and the Northwest.
The Loup River near Columbus.
The compilation was a perspective summation of details for known lakes, and presented four particular features: township, range, number of water "bodies" and their extent in acres. Known particulars were indicated in an east-to-west direction. There was no attribution for the source of the presented information.
These are the details for the Sand Hills region from more than 125 years ago, indicating the township and range, number of features, and notes. The details of the list are presented in the order as published.
- T25N, R10E; 1 with 360 acres; this lake was listed for one township east of the current Goose Lake WMA, in southeast Holt County.
- T25N R15 W; 1 of 130 acres, which would compare favorably with the well-known Swan Lake, in southwest Holt County.
- T27N R16W; a lake of 5 acres, which could correspond to a meadow with a bit of spring-water.
- T28N R16W; a 55-acre lake, in the vicinity of the current Dora Lake, southwest of Atkinson.
- T27-29N R17W; the number of places with water was given as comprising - 175 acres, 4 - 430 acres, and 2 - 130 acres; this group is the area which currently includes Wolf Lake, Snipe Lake, Pony Lake, and Frazer Lake, in east-central Rock county.
- T17N R22-23W; this is within Custer County, and though there are no modern-era lakes in the vicinity; ephemeral basins are known to occur.
- T31N R25W; one lake of 10 acres in the vicinity of Wood Lake, Cherry County.
- T27-32N R27-29W; there were 39 lakes given for this region, comprising, overall, 6709 acres. This area is now the Valentine NWR, in eastern Cherry County.
A portion of T27N R28W, as drawn by surveyors on the 1875 General Land Office map.
- T27N R31W; one lake of 30 acres, at what is now the Big Creek area, Cherry County.
- T21N R34W; one lake of 80 acres, and which was probably the lake now known as Jefford Lake, but which was historically known as Cody Lake.
- T26-27N R35W; two different lakes, of 5 acres each; this is in the vicinity of the headwaters of the Middle and North Branches of the Middle Loup River, and west of Calf Creek; in Cherry County.
- T24N R36W; one lake of 40 acres; probably the place now known as Phipps Lake, north of Whitman, though it may have also been Doc Lake, just west of what in a few years would be a new village among the hills, and along the future railroad right-of-way.
- T20N R37W; eight lakes, comprising 98 acres; this township is west of the historic Lena, where a number of lakes continue to occur.
- T26N R37W; one lake of 80 acres; historically there were lakes here, including Krumpf and Sunflower lakes.
- T34N R37W; one lake of 25 acres; which is probably Cottonwood Lake, east of Merriman.
- T20N R44W; one lake of 700 acres which was probably the historic Crescent Lake, south of the current government-owned Crescent Lake national wildlife refuge.
- T20N R45W; one lake of 460 acres; this is in the vicinity of Blue Lake and Hackberry Lake, also south from the federal refuge, in central Garden County.
Overall, the tally was 99 lakes comprising a designated 11,160 acres.
This list presented details for the most predominant wetlands within the sandhills region in the 1870s. The original land survey maps have a great array of interesting features, but do not indicate details of each marsh, swamp or temporary wetland present at the time when the survey was completed.
Highlights indicated in a report of the early 1880s, none-the-less indicate the prominent water bodies as shown in a historic context.