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In the Platte River Valley

The Central and North Platte Geographic Focus Area includes the ninety-mile segment of the Platte River from Lexington to Chapman – often referred to as the Big Bend – in south-central Nebraska, plus an eighty-mile stretch of the North Platte River, between Lewellen and the city of North Platte.

The river system was once a mosaic of braided channels, shifting sandbars, sloughs, and low, sandy banks lined by wet meadows – tallgrass prairie communities fed by high groundwater along the rivers’ edges.

Much of the Platte valley’s fertile floodplain has been converted to row crops and other agricultural uses. Large dams on the North Platte River have reduced sediment in both rivers and leveled out the natural streamflow fluctuations that once shaped this dynamic system of habitats. As a result, the river corridor has in many areas been degraded by encroaching trees and other invasive plants including Russian olives, phragmites, and purple loosestrife. Down-cutting has deepened the channels in many areas, divorcing portions of both rivers from their floodplains and thus threatening wet meadow habitat.

The RWBJV is providing technical resources to help partners evaluate, monitor, and manage Platte River and North Platte River habitats. Conservation partners are focused on : 1) providing high-quality wet meadows and grassland habitat for foraging cranes and grassland nesting birds, and 2) reducing woodland encroachment in active river channels and adjacent wet meadows.

Why it Matters:

Each spring, the vast majority of the world’s Sandhill Cranes stop over in the central Platte River valley; this stretch of the Platte also provides migration habitat for Whooping Cranes, waterfowl, and shorebirds. An estimated 160,000 grassland birds nest in the 140,000-plus acres of wet meadows and other grasslands along the river. Interior Least Terns and Piping Plovers nest on sandbars in the river channels or at channel-side gravel mining sites.

The North Platte River provides important migration habitat for Sandhill Cranes, geese, and ducks. The stretch of river in the Geographic Focus Area is lined by a high density of wetlands and wet meadows as well as about 16,000 acres of grasslands dominated by mixed-grass prairie species.

The same waters that are essential to these riparian habitats provide irrigation that increases and stabilizes the agricultural yields of south-central Nebraska’s highly productive soils. Groundwater connected to the Platte River provides municipal water for communities along the river. And restored channels not only improve habitat, but help reduce local flooding caused by extremes in precipitation.



RWBJV Administrative Regions

Conservation on the Ground

We're working on cataloging projects in this region. Stay tuned.


    • Andy Bishop
    • Rainwater Basin Joint Venture Coordinator

    • andy_bishop@fws.gov

    • (308) 380-8691

    • Kirk Schroeder
    • NE Assistant State Private Lands Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    • kirk_d_schroeder@fws.gov

    • (308) 379-8556

    • John C. Denton
    • Nebraska Manager of Conservation Programs, Ducks Unlimited

    • jdenton@ducks.org

    • 308-258-4682

    • Bruce Sackett
    • Land Specialist, Headwaters Corporation

    • sackettb@headwaterscorp.com

    • 402-450-3527

    • Justin Haahr
    • Private Lands Biologist (Central Platte), Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

    • justin.haahr@nebraska.gov

    • 308-865-5308

Science Projects in the Region

Regional Updates

We'll get some posts up soon.