30 July 2010

Water Features Prominent Aspect of Holt County Landscape

Water related features are a prominent landscape feature of southwestern Holt County, Nebraska. Their extent is obvious in looking at topographic maps of the region.

There are headwaters creeks which eventually flow into the Elkhorn River. Lakes and wetlands abound. And within the entire scene are a myriad of flowing wells, where water gushes from the sandy substrate and create flows which contribute to the watery conditions.

Map graphic showing prominent water-related features of southwestern Holt County. Information derived from topographic maps. Image Copyright 2010 J.E. Ducey, all rights reserved.

Amongst this region, is Amelia, a tiny hamlet with a few residents. The place is known for its flowing waters, as expressed in a January 1998 article issued by the Associated Press, and published in the Norfolk Daily News. A portion of that article is given here:

"Regardless of the ebb and flow of population, one thing about Amelia was constant: The community had plenty of water, thanks to the existence of hundreds of free-flowing artesian wells.
"Water from these wells is relatively pure, said Dennis Schueth, manager of the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District.
"Free-flowing wells are created when a well is drilled to a point where the water pressure is so great that water is forced out at the surface. Normal deaths range from 50 to 100 feet.
"But in the Amelia area that depth ranges from ground level to less than 15 feet, Schueth said.

Flowing wells in the immediate vicinity of Amelia, eastern sandhills of Holt County.

"Adair," [Allen Adair, Amelia's unofficial mayor], "said history books of the 1950s cited Amelia as having the purest water in the world.
"Somebody should be selling it," he told the Norfolk Daily News.
"Back in the sodbuster days, people did. When Amelia's postmaster made his three-day, 26-mile journey to retrieve the mail in O'Neill, he hauled gallons of Amelia water to Moses P. Kincaid, the congressman and lawyer whose legislation was responsible for settling the Nebraska frontier.
"The wells run for years without drying up and maintain a temperature around 52 degrees. Winter cold doesn't freeze them, and summer heat doesn't warm them.
"On the county road running past Amelia is an old water fountain that gurgles with clear drinking water. The well was dug about 80 years ago and is still going strong, Peterson said.
"A person walking the streets of Amelia hears the sounds typical of a rural town -- barking dogs, the motors of passing cars, the leaves rustling from the trees and the Nebraska wind.
"But one also will hear water -- trickling, rushing and flowing. More than 20 wells flow into the canals that line the dirt streets, Adair said."

Flowing fountain at Amelia. Picture taken 12 May 2007.

Water is not only a feature about the community of Amelia, but occurs throughout the region, apparent on the surface at lakes known as Dora, Lizard, Cottonwood, East, West, Gold, Lambs, Overton, Long, Swan, Willow and Chain Lakes. With so much water about, some places are known as Maurice Lakebed or Grass Lakebed since they are now drained to provide meadows where the grass can be cut to supply a season's hay crop. A few more lakes occur in the area to the south, in Garfield County.

There is also a plethora of flowing wells. Topographic maps of the U.S. Geological Survey show their extent and how wide-spread they are. The are indicated by a the words "flowing wells" and occur at more than 25 different places.

Around Amelia, there are at least nine indicated, along with other wetland features, including a lake area just to the east.

Besides that fountain at Amelia, there is a spout in a small local lake, bubbling forth as an ongoing, seemingly ever-lasting supply to the lake where the waters nourish other life.

There is also Keegan Creek, Dry Creek, Holt Creek and other flow channels which are forks of the Elkhorn River. Some flows southward as Big Cedar Creek. These channels might nourish a wet meadow or simply transport the water onward as it flows away from this region of the eastern sandhills.

Obviously a plethora of water from the groundwater aquifer occurs in this area, and it is perhaps the most prominent aspect of the landscape.

Two of the most predominant features of the southwest portion of Holt County can be simply described: sandhills and water.

Designated wetlands in the vicinity of Swan Lake, which is at the lower right of the image. Wetlands are indicated by green and blue, and the type indicated by the alphabetic code. Information from www.nationalmap.gov.

Designated wetlands in the vicinity of Amelia, in the lower center of the image, with Swan Lake at the lower left.