Topography and General Character of Nebraska|
Climatology of Nebraska
Climatology of Nebraska (cont.)|
Waters of Nebraska|
Drainage of Nebraska and the Character of its Water
General Flora of Nebraska | Forest Trees and Shrubs|
Wild Fruits | Natural Fauna | Mammals | Birds | Reptiles
Fishes | Insect Life
The Locusts | Mollusks | Healthfulness of Nebraska|
In striking contrast to past geological times, there are now no large lakes in Nebraska. There are, however, a large number of small lakes. Those along the Missouri have been produced in recent times, and some within a few years by "cut-offs" of the river. One northwest of Dakota City, which is a type of many others, is about five miles long. Similar lakes in a similar way have been formed on the Elkhorn, Platte, Blue, Nemaha and other rivers. Some of the lakes far in the interior appear to be remnants of what was once in Loess times a vast inland lake that covered the larger part of Nebraska. An extensive region of small lakes is found at and beyond the head of the Elkhorn River. Of these lakelets, over thirty in number, many are of great beauty and with sandy or pebbly bottoms. A still more extensive lake region exists at the head-waters of the North Loup, and between that and the Niobrara River. Most of these are of fresh water, but a few are saline or alkaline. At the head of Snake River, a tributary of the Niobrara, there are a number of small saline and fresh water lakes. Perhaps the most extensive groups of saline lakes are those at the bend of Pine Creek, also one of the tributaries of the Niobrara. There are also a number of alkaline and fresh water lakes between the heads of the Dismal and Middle Loup. In my notes of exploration and travel, there is a list of over one hundred, and no doubt there are many more that have not been noted. In addition to these, there are great numbers of ponds that almost approach in size to the dignity of lakes. The alkaline lakes can always be detected on sight. No grass or other vegetable forms grow near the water, while at fresh water lakes luxuriant growths of vegetation extended to the very water's edge. With the increase of rainfall going on over the State, the level of these lakes will naturally rise, and many of them that are now isolated will become connected and cover much more extended areas than at present. A prominent characteristic of most of these lakes and lakelets is the wonderful clearness of the water. A silver three or 5-cent piece thrown into them can be distinctly seen at the bottom with the naked eye, even when they are from fifteen to twenty feet deep. This I ascertained in most instances by actual measurement. Most of the deeper lakes, especially of the northern and western portions of the State, have gravelly, coarse, sandy or pebbly bottoms. Here formerly, much more than at present, was a paradise for water-fowl.
Springs, Wells and Artesian Wells.--In Southeastern Nebraska, many springs appear on top of limestone strata that underlie loosely-compacted sandy rocks or shales. Wherever the Dakota Group of sand rocks exist, springs frequently proceed from some harder layers of this deposit. Warner's Spring, in Dakota County, and Yellow Springs, near Tekamah, are examples. Springs also proceed from above clayey layers, in other groups of cretaceous rocks. Another class of springs proceed from between different kinds of layers of the Drift and Loess. The Drift is specially remarkable for the number of clayey layers that carry the water to the nearest cut where springs are formed. Many of the springs that emerge from the bluffs of all the river valleys, owe their origin to this cause. This explains, too, why in some sections of the State, springs are abundant, and why in other sections they are found only at long intervals. The more broken and rolling the country, other things being equal, the more abundant they are. On the long reaches of level land and on the broad divides, springs occur only at long intervals.
Wells.--Water, however, is abundant even here, but it must be obtained through wells. Over the greater part of the State, shafts or holes sunk down from fifteen to fifty feet, are sure to obtain it in abundance. The exceptions to this rule are some portions of wide divides in Fillmore, Clay, Adams and Phelps Counties, where there is a great thickness of Loess and Drift to be penetrated before impervious strata, capable of holding water, are reached. A well with a wind-mill attached supplies water to man and beast in whatever quantity needed.
Artesian Wells.--These have been bored at a few places. The one in the public square in Lincoln is 1,050 feet deep. At between 70 and 250 feet, strong brine was encountered, but it did not come to the surface. At 560 feet, saline water came up in a powerful current. The weight of evidence seemed to show that at this level fresh water was encountered, but that it mingled with the salt waters above, especially as the tubing employed was so defective that all the waters encountered were intermingled. Below this level still other currents of water were encountered, and the intermingling of all has produced a remarkable quality of mineral water. Another artesian well was successfully bored to a depth of 750 feet at Omaha. The flow of the water is strong and the quality good. On the whole the geological structure and other conditions in Eastern and Central Nebraska, and in some portions of Western, are very favorable for the boring of artesian wells.
Saline Springs.--At several localities, saline springs or bogs exist. One of the largest, covering, approximately, 500 acres, exists a few miles west of Lincoln. Others of smaller area exist near by. Considerable salt has been, at various times, manufactured at this place, and it would be possible to build up here, by legitimate development, a remunerative business. As already stated, the artesian well in Lincoln, on the Government square, struck several bodies of salt water. East of Oak Creek, an artesian well was also bored some years ago, from which flowed a strong stream of salt water. The source of this salt water is a porous stratum of the Dakota group sandstone. There are also saline springs and lakelets beyond the sources of the Elkhorn and Loup, but their probable value has not been ascertained.
The rivers of Nebraska are distinguished for their breadth, number, and, some of them, for their rapidity and depth. The Missouri is chief, not only of Nebraska, but of all the rivers of the Republic, because it gives character to all the others that unite with it to the Gulf. Forming the eastern border of the State, and a small extent of its northern boundary, and being tortuous in its path, at least 500 miles of the river are on its eastern and northern side in Nebraska. It is deep and rapid. Its bed is moving sand, mud and alluvium. It nowhere in Nebraska has rock bottom. Before rock can be reached, a thickness of from forty to one hundred feet of sand and mud must be penetrated from low water-mark. Its immediate banks, sometimes on both, and almost always on one side, are steep, often, indeed, perpendicular or leaning over toward the water. It is generally retreating or advancing from or on to one or other shore. It is the shore from which it is retreating that is sometimes gently sloping, while the one toward which it is advancing is steep. This steepness is produced by the undermining of the banks and the caving in that follows. Near the bottom there is a stratum of sand, which, being struck by the current, is washed out and the bank falls in. Many acres in some places have been carried away in a single season. The principal part of this "cutting " is done while the river is falling. When the river is low and winding through bottoms fringed with, in many places, dark groves of cottonwood and other timber, it is a sad, melancholy, weird stream. When it is "on a big rise," however, and presses forward with tremendous volume and force toward the Gulf, it becomes surpassingly grand and majestic. It is now full of eddies and whole trees that have been undermined and have fallen into the river are dragged forward at a fearful velocity. It is never fordable. Boats of various kinds were exclusively used for crossing the river until the advent of the railroad bridges at Omaha and Plattsmouth. The water is always muddy or full of finely commuted sand, the current rapid and full of whirling eddies. It is a dangerous stream to trifle with. Often, indeed, during flood times does the boiling, seething mass of water look as if it had been stirred up at bottom with the sand by some mighty convulsive movement of the earth. Few that fall into it ever reach the shore alive without assistance. The clothes are soon saturated with the sediment of the river, which is always turbid or muddy, and sinks the victim to the bottom. So well understood, however, is this feature of the Missouri that no more persons are drowned in it than in other rivers of corresponding magnitude. The peculiar character of the Missouri gives uniqueness to the scenery along its shores. A position on some of the terraces or bluffs overlooking the river gives views of unsurpassed beauty. There is one such of remarkable grandeur above Ionia, in Dixon County, where the river touches the bluff, throwing its wide bottom into Dakota Territory. From this point, the river can be seen toward the east for fifteen miles. The dark cottonwood groves, the curves of the river, the Dakota plain on the northern side, studded with homesteads, constitute a picture that rivals in beauty the most famous scenes in the world. Another equally fine view of the river can be had from the top of the bluff on the road from Ponca to the Missouri bottom. With some obnoxious elements attached to its character, it is, as we have already seen, a storehouse of blessings to the sections through which it flows. Had it not been for the Missouri the settlement of this region would have been indefinitely delayed. It is a highway to the commerce and markets of the world; and on this highway the first emigrants reached Nebraska, and sent off their products to other regions. As the Missouri is navigable for 2,000 miles above Omaha, it was a great highway for traffic with the mountain regions of Idaho, Dakota and Montana. Since the building of railroads, its business has fallen off. Vessels still run from Sioux City and Yankton to the Upper Missouri and the Yellowstone. Latterly, there are indications of a revival of business on the Lower Missouri.
The Platte is the next river in importance to the Missouri. In length it approximates to 1,200 miles. Its head-waters originate in the mountains, and some of them in lakelets fed by the everlasting snows. By the time it reaches Nebraska, it is broad, shallow, sandy, but still flows with a rapid current. It flows through the whole length of the State from east to west, dividing the State, but leaving the largest part on the north. In places at low water it can be forded, though teams are sometimes in danger of sticking fast in the quick-sands. It is not navigable. It has been bridged at Fremont, Schuyler, Grand Island, Kearney Junction, North Platte and other points. An important point on the river is North Platte, where it forks, one branch being known as the South Fork, enters the State from Colorado near the angle of the southwest corner, or near the parallel of 41 degrees. The North Fork enters the State from Wyoming near Latitude 42. The average volume of water at North Platte is greater than at its mouth, though it receives in the meantime some large tributaries, the most important of which are the Elkhorn, Papillion, Shell Creek, Loup and Wood Rivers. A few held that this was caused by evaporation. The tributaries, however, that enter the Platte from the north more than supply the waste from this cause. The explanation of this phenomenon is found in the character of the bottom and its continuation with the Drift underlying the uplands south of the Platte. The bottom of the Platte is extremely sandy, and is continuous with a sandy, gravelly and pebbly deposit of the Drift under the Loess as far as to the Republican. The general level of the Republican is 352 feet below that of the Platte. There is, therefore, a descent from the Platte to the Republican, and along such a formation that there is easy drainage from the one into the other. That there is such drainage on an extensive scale I have no doubt. Wading in the Republican in August, as I have done for many miles at a time, I noticed on the north side water oozing out of the Drift continuously every few feet in places, and rarely at greater intervals than every few rods. Nothing of the kind was noticed on its southern shore. When tributaries of the Republican from the northwest cut deep enough to strike the Drift, they share in the reception of this water from the Platte. Few, however, do this.
Flood time for the Platte is generally about the same time as that of the Missouri--sometimes a few days or weeks earlier, but the continuance of both is so long that they meet, though they rarely culminate together. The Platte drains principally from the northwest. Its watershed on the south is only a few miles from its valley, while on the north it extends in places to within thirty-six miles of the north line of the State.
The Republican River rises in the Colorado plains near Range 49 west of the sixth Principal Meridian. Its head here, in an old but now dried-up lake, is 4,050 feet above the sea. At the State line, it is only a few feet across. Along the upper portion of its course, there are a few little lakelets into which and from which it flows. Here the water is cool and clear. When it receives the water of the Arickeree, seven miles east of the State line, it becomes shallow, sandy, and, in places, rapid. Its junction with the Republican Fork, its principal tributary, is in Range 38 west. Frenchman's s Fork, another important tributary, flowing southeast, joins the Republican at Culbertson. The next most important tributary from the southwest is the Beaver. Red Willow and Medicine Creeks from the northwest are also important tributaries. An immense number of small creeks flow every few miles into the Republican, especially from the north. The river, unlike the Platte, increases regularly in breadth and volume from its source to its exit from the State in Nuckolls County. As has already been stated, it receives, by subterranean drainage, a portion of the waters of the Platte. It is fordable in many places and many bridges already span it.
The Niobrara River, from its source in Wyoming to its mouth, is 460 miles long. Its source is 5,100 feet above sea level. At the State line, it is ten feet wide, and of beautiful clear running water, which character it retains though widening to about fifteen feet down to Longitude 103° 15'. From this point it widens rapidly, until in Longitude 102° 30', it is from sixty to eighty yards wide. Here it enters a cañon whose walls are high and steep. This cañon region continues about 189 miles. After its emergence from the cañon, it is still a broad, rapid and sandy river to its mouth. Owing to its rapidity and quicksands, it is difficult to ford along its lower course. Here there are many low islands, mostly covered with timber. It enters the Missouri in Range 6 west and 32 north.
Most of the numerous tributaries of the Niobrara are of small size. The first of importance on the south side is the Verdigris. It flows through the west end of Knox County, joining the Niobrara six miles from its mouth. Between this and the Keya Paha, on the south side, there are a great number of tributaries. From the mouth of this stream to the Wazikonski, there are a great number of small tributaries, many of which are remarkable for the number of fine springs of water that feed them and for the pines and cedars on their banks and bluffs. Snake River is the next important tributary. Its mouth is near longitude 100° 45'. It has a narrow valley, and its bluffs are covered with pine. The Keya Paha in the first large tributary above its mouth on the north side of the Niobrara. It is about 125 miles long. Where I crossed it, fifty miles above its mouth, it has a fine valley, three-fourths of a mile wide, with a good soil, and some cottonwood timber. The bed of the river, like that of the Niobrara, is sandy, but its waters are clear and delicious to the taste. At its mouth, it is about fifty-five yards wide. The next tributary from the northwest is Rapid Creek, which, however, is only nine yards wide at its mouth. It connects with the Niobrara in longitude 100° 23'. Its valley is in some places half a mile wide, and the soil is, judging from the vegetation, quite fertile. A few small trees fringe its banks. It is about fifty-five miles long. Reunion Creek, which flows into the Niobrara at longitude 101° 18', has hardly any bottom, and flows between lofty rock bluffs, very hard to ascend or descend. At its mouth, it is fifty-eight yards wide, and has clear, cold, rapid-running water.
At Longitude 101° 30', a creek flows into the Niobrara, a little more than half the size of Rapid Creek, which it closely resembles. Above this there are a great number of small rivulets, which flow into the Niobrara, many of which are dry, except in rainy weather. They, however, indicate the former abundance of water here, and will, with the growing moisture and rainfall of the State, again, no doubt, become permanent fresh-water streams.
The White River flows through Northwestern Nebraska. It enters the State from Wyoming, flows eastward and northeastward, north of the Niobrara, until it enters Dakota Territory, a little east of longitude 103°. It has its source not far from that of the Niobrara, near a sudden descent of 500 feet, south of Hat Creek Station, on the road from Fort Laramie. This abrupt descent, when approached from the south, is not suspected until it is reached. Sometimes this descent is a slope that a team can climb, and again it changes to a bare wall 500 feet high. Numerous brooks flow down the gullies and ravines formed on the side of this steep ascent and wall, and these go to form White River. The White River in Nebraska has many small tributaries, many of which are beautiful clear rivulets.
The Elkhorn River is one of the most beautiful streams of the State. It rises west of Holt and Elkhorn Counties. Near its source the valley widens to a very great breadth, and the bluffs bordering it are low and often almost inappreciable. In the region of its source, especially south of the center of the valley, are a great number of beautiful, small, fresh-water lakes. Within a region eighteen by twelve miles square, there are at least twenty of these lakelets, most of which drain into the head-waters of the West Fork of the Elkhorn. It soon becomes in size a respectable stream. In the eastern border of Madison County, it receives the North Branch of the Elkhorn, which rises in the southern part of Knox County. Unlike the West Fork, or main branch, it does not originate in a lake region, but in a region of innumerable small springs. The channel is full of water holes, between which the water often in midsummer flows underground. Soon it loses this character and becomes a rapid, clear, deep and beautiful stream. The general direction of the main river approximates to 250 miles. Its direction is southeast. It empties into the Platte in the western part of Sarpy County. For a large part of its course, the Elkhorn flows over rock bottom. It has considerable fall, and its steady, large volumes of waters will render it a most valuable manufacturing region.
The Logan is the most important tributary of the Elk-horn. It rises principally in Cedar County. Of several branches of this river, it is impossible to tell which is the longest or deserves the name of principal stream. They all originate in bogs or old filled-up lake beds. Large beds of peat are here found. After emerging from these bogs, which lie in the midst of the most beautiful and gently rolling lands conceivable, these Logan streams soon become constant, clear and rapid. The bottoms are pebbly or sandy. There are many of these branches in Wayne County, which, through their instrumentality, has among the finest physical features of any sections of the State. There are numerous small tributaries of the Elkhorn, all of which have characters in a minor degree like the parent stream. The general direction of all these Logan Rivers is southeast until Burt County is reached, after which it is south, until a junction is formed with the Elkhorn in the eastern portion of Dodge County.
The Bow Rivers in Northeastern Nebraska are not known as they deserve to be. They are known as the East, the Middle and the West Bows. No rivers of the State have interested me more. The water is clear and cold. They originate in the coolest and most delightful springs of mostly soft water. In the center of Cedar County, near Curlew, there is a spring of cold water that emerges from a bluff strong enough to turn a mill. In fact, almost every half mile along these rivers these magnificent springs make their appearance. Except the East Bow, their general direction is northeast. The East Bow flows northwest until it unites with the Middle Bow. Below St. James, all united, they join their waters to those of the Missouri. Sooner or later, when fish culture receives the attention in this State which it deserves, these Bow Rivers will become noted as trout streams.
The Nemahas early became noted rivers in Nebraska. The North Branch of the Nemaha runs in a southeasterly direction, diagonally through Johnson and Richardson Counties, until it unites with the main river, in the latter county. Its length is about sixty miles and increases regularly in size, from its source to its mouth, by the addition of numerous tributaries. The main Nemaha rises in Pawnee County, takes a southerly direction into Kansas, then turns northeast into Richardson County and then flows a little south of east, until it unites with the Missouri near the southeast corner of the State. Its length is but sixty miles, but it receives so many comparatively large tributaries that its magnitude at the end of its course is much greater than many longer rivers. The bottom lands are broad, beautifully terraced, and the bordering bluffs are beautifully rounded off. The impression left on the mind after traversing these valleys is that their beauty cannot well be surpassed. The Little Nemaha is a smaller addition of the Big Nemaha. It also has numerous tributaries.
The Blues are among the most important rivers of the State. The main branch drains eight counties, which are among the best in the State. It is about 132 miles long. A map of the State will show its general direction. The Middle Fork of the Blue rises in Hamilton County and unites with the North Blue at Seward. Its length is about sixty miles. The West Fork unites with the main Blue five miles above Crete, in Saline County. School Creek, Beaver Creek and Turkey Creek are important tributaries. All these Blue Rivers and their tributaries are remarkable for the amount of water which they carry off and the great beauty of the bottom lands through which they pass. It is doubtful whether the mind could imagine a section better supplied with rivers, creeks and rivulets, giving an abundance of mill power and other water privileges. There is still another Blue River that rises in Adams County and passes out of the State in Jefferson County, and, in Kansas, finally unites with the Big Blue. About 110 miles of this river are in Nebraska. Like the Big Blue, it is a magnificent stream and resembles it in general character.
The Loups, next to the Niobrara, are the most unique rivers in Nebraska. Even these streams, however, have many things in common with the other rivers of Nebraska. The whole length of the Middle, or main Loup, approximates to 250 miles. It rises a little east of the 102° parallel and fifty miles from the north line of the State. My barometer indicated 3,230 feet above the sea level for this point. Its first important tributary is the Beaver, and then Cedar Creek, which originally took its name from the Cedar Groves along its banks. The North Loup rises among a cluster of small lakes, a little east of the 101st Meridian and forty-five miles from the north line of the State. Here I found a dozen of small lakes within a radius of eight miles, and many of them of great beauty, with pebbly and sandy bottoms, and with water clear as crystal. Calamus Creek is its most important tributary. The entire length of this Loup, until its junction with the Middle Loup, is 150 miles. Its general direction is southeast. Perhaps there is no more interesting and beautiful valley in all Nebraska than the North Loup. Corn and the cereal grains, as elsewhere in the State, is most successfully cultivated.
On the south side of the main tributaries are Mud Creek and the South Loup. The latter rises immediately beyond the west boundary of Custer County. It joins the Middle Loup in Howard County. There are a large number of smaller tributaries. The rivers are, in places, excessively sandy and quite rapid. The quality of the bottom lands vary more than in other Nebraska valleys. At the ordinary level there is a somewhat sandy loam, rich in humus and of a dark color. In depressions slightly below the level of the former, and often of a cloggy texture, the alkaline soil occurs. Slightly elevated above both these varieties is a coarser sandy soil. These different soils often shade into each other, and again they are sharply outlined. The good soil, however, greatly predominates over the inferior varieties. Very little of the alkaline soil, however, can be called poor. Cultivation permits the waters to percolate through it and carry to lower levels the excess of alkaline matter, and much is consumed by the crops that are cultivated, especially in wet seasons.
Toward the head of the Loups the sand hills in places crowd the bottom lands. Where they occur, travel is difficult. Often where they are most abundant, they suddenly cease, and the country changes to a gently rolling plain of first and second class land. Some explorers have pronounced one-half of the region of the Loups waste land. This is certainly by one-half too high. And if one-fourth of the Upper Loup region is taken up with sand hills they still make choice pasture or grazing grounds. It is remarkable that where twelve years ago the sand hills were comparatively bare, they have now, through the influence of increasing rainfall, become covered to some extent with a growth of nutritious grasses. This is proof, if any were needed, of the abundance of mineral fertilizers which these sands contain.
There are many other rivers of Nebraska to which our limits will only in part permit us even to allude. Among the most important of these are Salt Creek, named from the number of saline springs that drain into it; the Weeping Water, in Cass County; the Wahoo, in Saunders County, Elk Creek and Dakota County, and South and West Iowa Creeks, in Dixon County. All possess more or less of the general character of Nebraska rivers. Traveling over the State in almost any direction, and the study of a good map, demonstrates that this State is eminently the land of many and broad rivers. The water supply, therefore, is most bountiful. Rivers and Creeks--often both--and rivulets are found in every county, and the latter often in enormous numbers.
General Character of the Drainage.--From the preceding presentation of facts, and the discussions concerning them, it is clear that the drainage system of Nebraska is complete. The State, as a whole, slopes eastward and a little southward. There is little flat land. The great body of the State varies from a very gently, almost imperceptibly rolling region, to one that is made up of rounded, hill-like masses, with long, gentle slopes. The subsoil is the best in the world for drainage, being made up principally of loess materials, and, where these run out, is composed of alluvium or drift. The loess contains 80 per cent of finely comminuted silica, and as this deposit is of enormous average thickness, it absorbs excessive rainfall like a sponge. The alluvium also contains a large amount of silica, and the drift is noted for that material. The average elevation of the whole State is about 2,312 feet above the sea. In the lay of the land, therefore, its physical character, its slope and elevation above the sea, it is in the best possible condition for perfect drainage. It is owing to this combination of causes that farmers are seldom, in the wettest weather, delayed more than a day or two in plowing. In fact, as soon as the rain ceases, in most soils, they can plow without injury to the land. It is also owing to these causes that Nebraska possesses such admirable natural roads. Twelve hours after the heaviest rains the roads are comparatively dry. It is true, that roads that cross creek bottoms are sometimes an exception; and this is because occasionally there are longer or shorter distances here that are underlaid with strata of clayey material. Here the water stands longer, and, in the rainy season the mud may continue for a few weeks or a month. Such cases only attract attention because of the general dryness of the roads. Less road tax is needed than in any other State. The obstacles to good roads are the creek and river crossings, which are everywhere being rapidly bridged.
Character of the Water.--Carbonate of lime is the commonest ingredient of the waters of springs and wells. Then follow, in minute and varying quantities, in different springs, carbonate of potash and soda, sulphate of potash, soda and lime, chlorides of sodium and potash and free carbonic acid. Many springs are free from the most of these salts. Carbonate of lime, the commonest impurity, is seldom present in injurious quantities. Perhaps three-fourths of the springs of the State contain it, in amount, varying from a trace to distinctly hard water. There are many springs and wells whose waters are remarkably soft. Those of the Bow Rivers are mainly of this character. Generally, where springs emerge from the gravel beds and pebbles, or strata of sand in the drift, the waters are soft and otherwise remarkably pure. Wells sunk in these deposits are of the same character. On the other hand, water obtained from the loess whether by springs or wells, has a perceptible quantity of carbonate of lime, and a small quantity of lime in solution. There are also strata in the drift containing a large amount of lime, and this is often the source of the hardness of the water that proceeds from these deposits. In general, the water of springs and wells is remarkably clear and cool and free from injurious ingredients. There is, of course, no such thing as absolutely pure water, except by distillation. It is the salts that natural water contains that make it palatable. Impurities when present are mostly of organic origin and generally from the carelessness of man. Owing to the fine natural drainage qualities of Nebraska soil and subsoil, special care needs to be taken to prevent the contamination of water from the surface. Cesspools, water closets and manure yards are the principal sources of impurity. Water percolating through them will drain into any well sooner or later, placed within ninety feet or them, unless special provision is made against such a result. Wooden curbing sometimes gives a bad taste to well water, which disappears as soon as it is changed for brick or stone.
Some of the wells sunk into the rocks of the Dakota group have a strong taste of iron. While this is disagreeable, it is not specially injurious.
The character of the river and creek waters of the State is peculiar from the large quantity of sediment which it contains. The Missouri leads in this respect. At high water, it contains 403.7 grains per gallon; at low water, 51.9 grains per gallon. Carbonate of lime is present in considerable quantity; also small quantities of carbonate of soda, iron in various forms and carbonic acid. Minute quantities of sulphuric acid, magnesia and organic matter were also present.
Though the water of the Missouri is muddy, yet when it is allowed to settle and become clear, it is singularly sweet, and, in summer, when cooled with ice, it is even delicious. I have seen barrels filled with Missouri water, in July and August, and, whether standing in the sun or shade, no infusoria or other minute animal forms could be detected with the microscope, even after a week's exposure. I have had no such experience with any other river water anywhere. Probably, one reason of this is, that the sediment held in suspension, by the water, carries to the bottom, as it settles, all organic matter. Eventually, infusoria appear in it, in from ten to twelve days, while with ordinary water, under the same circumstances, they can be found within a week.
The waters of the Platte do not differ materially from those of the Missouri. It holds almost as much sediment in suspension during flood time, but materially less during low water.
On analysis, it is found that the water of the Republican closely resembles that of the Platte. As it receives by drainage a considerable quantity of the water of the Platte, and flows over similar deposits, this similarity in chemical character would be expected.
The Niobrara River varies in different parts of its course in the quality and temperature of its waters more than any other river in Nebraska. Where it enters the State, it is a clear, sparkling stream, and before it reaches the cañon region, it approximates in character to that of the Upper Platte. Here, however, it flows between lofty walls and receives such a vast number of cold springs of water, that the whole river partakes of their character. After it emerges from this cañon region, it again gradually approximates in the character of its water to that of the Platte.
The Bow Rivers are peculiar in the great number of pure springs of water that are found along their whole length. Their mean temperature is comparatively low, and yet, because of the springs with which they are fed, large sections of them never freeze over, even in the coldest winters. The waters are softer than most other rivers of the State. The Bazile and Verdigris are in this respect like it.
The waters of the remaining rivers that rise within the State have many points in common. One of them is the blackish hue that is given to them after rains and during flood time. This is caused by the organic matter which is brought down by every rivulet from the black surface soil of the State. This black soil being from one to twenty feet in thickness, all the water pouring into the rivers, after rains, is, more or less, loaded with it. This, then, gives to the waters those ingredients which constitute its dissolved substance. Among these, in addition to the organic matter, is lime, salts of soda, potash and magnesia and iron. In minute quantity, also, sulphuric and hydrochloric acid. When flood time is over, the streams that rise within the State are proximately clear. The Blues have, in places, a blue tinge, and yet objects can be seen at the bottom, where the water is from two to four feet deep.