The development of The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District created many unforeseen benefits. Originally constructed in the late 1930s and early 1940s to bring irrigation to a parched area of south-central Nebraska — while generating hydroelectric power — the recreational benefits of the project’s reservoirs, canals, and canyon lakes soon became apparent. 

By impounding the unpredictable flows of the North Platte River in Lake McConaughy and diverting some of the river’s flow into a supply canal that created other reservoirs, the project laid the groundwork for the development of varied water-related outdoor recreation unique in the central Great Plains.