Mississippi River Basin

Missouri River Basin – Nebraska Expedition Itinerary
(Part of the Greater Mississippi River Basin)
June 10–18, 2017

1,249 miles, 12 hours of interviews, 52 rivers-creeks-lakes, 37 municipalities

Expedition Team: Alison Jones, NWNL Founder & Director
Lana Straub, Journalist, NWNL Expedition Researcher

Prairie roots go deep. One can’t move the previous generation’s footsteps.” — Jeanne Crumly

Here especially, water is life.” — Art Tanderup

This water is our livelihood – our #1 asset.” — Sharyn Troester

SAT JUNE 10: Omaha to Blair, Nebraska: Along the Missouri River

Eastern Metro Nebraska (5 waterbodies)

Aerial view of Missouri River

  • North Omaha: via “Lewis & Clark Scenic Byway
  • Missouri River: A National Recreational River – its braided channels altered by 1944 Flood Control Act levees and dams.

    • North Omaha Power Station Riverfront Trail
    • Nebraska Ash (storage/disposal of bottom & coal-fly ash)
    • Bow-fishing in nearby creek
  • Dodge Park & Marina: on Missouri River
  • Hummel Park Nature Center: Forested bluff on Missouri River
  • Boyer Channel: west cutoff of Missouri River
  • Boyer Chute NWR: Est’d 1992, prairie and wetland restoration programs.
  • Moors Creek and Mill Creek
  • Overnight: Blair

SUN JUNE 11: Blair to Niobrara, Nebraska: Iowa’s Loess Hills

(Weather: Marginal risk of tornadoes and severe storms) (6 waterbodies)

Maple River in the Loess Hills

Eastern Metro Nebraska

  • Blair (Washington Co, pop 8,000): early Missouri River trading site
  • Cameron Ditch/Fish Creek

Western Iowa

  • Missouri River: crossed via Lincoln Highway
  • Missouri Valley (Harrison Co, pop 2,838): DeSoto NWR and terraced cornfields
  • Logan (Harrison Co, pop 1,534)
  • Boyer River: closed bridge due to erosion of sandy riverbanks
  • Loess Hills National Scenic Byway: One of “Top 10 US Scenic Byways”
  • Loess Hills State Forest: formed by wind-blown glacial silt 10,000–20,000 years ago.
  • Magnolia (Harrison Co, pop 183): Established 1853
  • Pisgah (Harrison Co, pop 251): Headquarters of Loess Hills State Forest
  • Soldier River: also with a closed bridge due to erosion on a tributary
  • Moorhead (Monona Co, pop 226)
  • Turin (Monona Co, pop 268): Site for 6,000-year-old “Turin Man"( 1955)
  • Maple River and Little Sioux River
  • Onawa (Monona Co, pop 2,998): Missouri River town with bridge to Nebraska

Missouri River at Ponca State Park

Eastern Nebraska

  • The Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway: N. Nebraska farmland, prairie and sandhills
  • Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail (1804)
  • Ponca State Park: on un-channeled reach of Missouri River
  • Ponca (Dixon County, pop 961): Nebraska’s 4th Oldest Town"
  • Overnight: Niobrara

MON JUNE 12: Nebraska and S. Dakota: Along the Missouri River

(Weather: Slight risk of tornadoes and severe storms) (7 waterbodies)

Beaver dam, Running Water, S. Dakota

Eastern Nebraska

  • Niobrara River: A National Scenic River; high-quality and fast-running water as it’s on a fault line; runs through tall-grass & short-grass prairies & northern boreal forest
  • Niobrara (Knox Co, pop 370): Means “water spread out” per Omaha Tribe. Town moved twice due to flooded Missouri River
  • Standing Bear Missouri River Bridge
  • Missouri National Recreational River: Wild and Scenic River (1978)

Southern South Dakota

  • Running Water (Bon Homme Co, pop 36): former river-ferry town
  • Bottom Road to Springfield (Bon Homme Co, pop 1,963)
  • Emanuel Creek: Called Plum Creek by Lewis and Clark
  • Lewis & Clark Lake at Springfield: reservoir of Gavins Point Dam.

Gavins Point Dam

Eastern Nebraska

  • Lewis & Clark Lake State Recreation Area.
  • Niobrara Formation Bluffs formed in Cretaceous Period, 85 million years ago
  • Gavins Point Dam (built 1957) and Lewis and Clark Visitor Center: End of commercial traffic coming upstream; hydro-power; and flood controls
  • Crofton (Knox County, pop 726): wind-turbine field
  • Lindy (Knox County, pop 13): A former Lewis and Clark campsite on today’s Santee Sioux Reservation
  • Santee Sioux Reservation (Knox Co., pop 878): Est’d 1863 on Missouri River
  • Santee (Knox Co, pop 346)
  • Lost Creek: in Santee Reservation
  • Basile Creek Wildlife Management Area: Missouri River tributary wetlands
  • Niobrara River Bridge: empty channel since 1990’s
  • Mormon Canal: New channel for Niobrara River since 1990s
  • Niobrara State Park: confluence of Missouri and Niobrara Rivers
  • Ponca Creek
  • Overnight: Niobrara

TUE JUNE 13: Niobrara to O’Neill, Nebraska: Tribes & Tornadoes

(Weather: “Watch” warning for tornadoes and severe storms) (6 waterbodies)

Elk hide showing “Trail of Tears” route of the Santee Sioux from Minnesota to Nebraska

Central Nebraska

  • Interview: Duane Whapple, Santee Sioux Museum Historian. The U.S. government could never afford to give us back our land.
  • Interview: Robert D. Wabasha, Santee Sioux resident
  • Niobrara Museum: Documents town’s move away from Missouri River
  • Interview: Barbara Farrar, Curator of Niobrara Museum “It’s always been the water.”
  • Niobrara River
  • Interview: Shannon Wright, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. Their medicinal flora and sacred sites are near Neligh, Nebraska.
  • Verdel (Knox Co, pop 30): boat access to Missouri River
  • Lynch (Boyd Co, pop 245): at junction of Whisky Creek and Ponca Creek
  • Eagle Creek and Blackbird Creek
  • O’Neill (Holt Co, pop 3,700): known for cattle, corn and potatoes.
  • Interview: Barrett Troester, 5-year-old on Keystone XL pipeline impact on his farm
  • Holt County Historical Museum / Kinkaid Building: Moses Kinkaid expanded Homestead Act to quadruple land available to farmers since so dry
  • Elkhorn River
  • Overnight: O’Neill

WED JUNE 14: O’Neill and Page, Nebraska: At Home with Farmers

(Weather: Slight risk of tornadoes and severe storms) (3 waterbodies)

Pivot irrigation

Central Nebraska

  • Page (Holt Co, pop 166): Farmers settled here 50–100 years ago
  • Interview: Sharyn Troester, Jennifer Troester, Jeanne Crumly: farming landowners on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route. Discussed:
    • Local Water Management on Holt Co.’s porous, sandy soil: pivot irrigation & no-till farming.
      A 110° day with 50 mph winds will kill a crop in 1 day.
    • Keystone XL pipeline:

      – Cracks/leaks most likely as pipelines bend under rivers.

      – Pipeline would disrupt soil structure or risk leaks

      – Canada’s dirty oil would go direct to Saudi Arabia refinery in TX for export

      – Lessons learned in denying Boyd County Nuclear Waste Project

  • Black Hills Ridge: between Elkhorn River Basin and Verdigris Creek Basins
  • XL Pipeline Site: south from ridge across little creek 100 feet from farmer’s home.

Ogallala Aquifer spring in Sandhills

  • Interview: Aaron Troester, farmer/landowner on proposed Keystone XL Pipeline Route, which would cross his land 4 times.
  • Antelope Slough Creek on Troester Farm – on proposed XL pipeline route
  • Interview: Rachel Kohlman, O’Neill Police Officer
    98% of the population here is involved in agriculture and 95% of the traffic is farm-related.
  • Concerns re Keystone XL proposal: man-camps for labor that breed human trafficking and whoring (as with ethanol plant built in nearby Atkinson, 2007)
  • Elkhorn River on Hwy 11, sandy bottom
  • Sandhills: sand trail through meadows & Ogallala Aquifer springs to Elkhorn River
  • Atkinson (Holt Co, pop 1,245): Ethanol plant on Hillcrest Road
  • Stuart (Holt Co, pop 601)
  • Overnight: O’Neill

THU JUNE 15: O’Neill & Page, Nebraska: In the Field with Farmers

(Weather: Slight risk of tornadoes and severe storms) (4 waterbodies)

Father-son talk on farming

Central Nebraska

  • Page: Interview: Jeanne Crumly (farming landowner) & Chad Cronk (farmer)
    Discussion of grasses and controlled burns to kill invasives
  • Antelope County Draw: Ash vein in “draw” from Idaho or Oregon volcano 10 million years ago, near Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park (“The Pompeii of Prehistoric Animals”)
  • Verdigris Creek / Middle Fork: Niobrara River tributary with waterfall moving upstream! Cool springs Site of 18-inch rhino tusk discovery.
  • Interview, 2nd with Jeanne Crumly: Discussion of Bold Nebraska’s legal resistance to Keystone XL and grassroots support of “farm-rancher passion.” Bold Nebraskacounters today’s problems of working poor & failing economics with legacy of Nebraska’s culture as a lifestyle based on family, community, frugality, work ethic, and an understanding of cycles and destiny.
  • Windbreaks of red cedar and juniper protecting crops and soil
  • Orchard (Antelope County, pop 355): small farm town with old schoolhouse
  • Royal (Antelope Co, pop 60): small farm town
  • Neligh (Antelope Cog, pop 1,523): M Street buildings circa 1901
  • Neligh Mill: hydropower on Elkhorn River
  • Hall Creek and Belnap Creek
  • Oakdale (Antelope Co, pop 300): small farm town with old grain mill
  • Lindsay (Platte Co, pop 254)
  • Albion (Boone Co., pop 1,607): cattle feedlots
  • Overnight: Albion

FRI JUNE 16: Neligh to York, Nebraska: Bold Nebraska Grassroots

(Weather: Watch warning for severe storms) (14 waterbodies)

Eastern Nebraska

Sacred Harvest Corn of Ponca Tribe

  • Beaver Creek, at Albion
  • Neligh (Antelope County, pop 1,523): Atop the Ogallala Aquifer, a sandy, gravel pit with water under The Great Plains (not an underground ocean). One of the world’s largest aquifers, it spans 8 states from South Dakota to Texas, with the thickest groundwater saturation below Nebraska.
  • Interview: Art Tanderup: farming landowner on proposed Keystone XL route
    • Background Fact: Chemicals in groundwater can be filtered; but not oil.
    • Natural Resource Concerns: An oil leak‘s “Kill Zone” (1000 feet in all directions) will impact rivers, wildlife, worms, topsoil, Native American sites, and air quality. “When sandy soil is piled up during construction, it will blow like snow!
    • Economic Concerns:

      – Landowners of easements to be liable for any pipeline accidents

      – Trans Canada to be taxed only for 36-inch pipe & land for 5 pumping station, not land over pipeline

      – TransCanada taxes to be phased out after 7 years, despite the perpetuity of their easements

      – Landowners of easements to still pay taxes on pipeline easements made barren and devalued

    • Long-term concern: TransCanada could pump and pipe out Ogallala Aquifer water.Water is the next oil.
  • Tanderup Farm: On Ponca Trail of Tears; cornfield maze; 80-acre crop art; Sacred Harvest Corn Path; Willie Nelson/Neil Young Cornfield Concert
    • – Solar panels for 91% of kilowatts used & no-till farming saving fossil fuels
    • – XL Pipeline to be 600 ft. from house, 500 ft. from house well, 400 ft. from irrigation well
    • – Two projected pipeline “bends” on farm would be high-impact points.

Cowboy-Indian Alliance

  • Elgin (Antelope County, pop 661)
  • Tilden to Norfolk: St. Claire’s Creek, Ives Creek, Giles Creek, Dry Creek, Buffalo Creek, Deer Creek, Loup River, Loup Canal Siphon, Loup River Overflow
  • Silver Creek and Platte River
  • Stromsburg (Polk Co, pop 1,152) to York (York Co, pop 7057): Prairie Creek, Big Blue River, Coon Branch
  • Benedict (York Co, pop 236): Energy Barn on pipeline route, using 1 kw from solar & wind.
  • Interview: Tom and Cathie Genung: They work with Bold Nebraska, organizing and training awareness within a coalition of farmers, ranchers, teachers and police, and the Cowboy-Indian Alliance.
  • Overnight: York

SAT JUNE 17: York to Steele City, Nebraska: End of the Line

Keystone 1 pumping station, Steele City

Eastern Nebraska (7 waterbodies)

  • Sleepy Hollow Creek
  • Beaver Crossing (Seward Co, pop 398): “Bronco Territory”
  • West Fork of Big Blue: Looked like “Big Brown” after recent severe storms!
  • Friend (Saline Co, pop 1,019)
  • Crete (Saline Co, pop 7034): Feed yards, site of Doane University (est 1872).
  • Johnson Creek, Squaw Creek, Turkey Creek, ANOTHER Dry Creek
  • Dorcester (Saline Co, pop 84)
  • Steele City (Jefferson Co, pop 60): Proposed XL line would join Keystone 1 line here.
    • Salty Dog Saloon: “Blues, Blues and BBQ’s”
    • Little Blue River: at Romeo Street Bridge
    • Keystone Pumping Station: north of town with wind turbines beyond
  • Overnight: Omaha