The Supply Canal

The Supply Canal

Water released by Central from Lake McConaughy for irrigation and/or power generation is either diverted into the Nebraska Public Power District’s supply canal or passes through Keystone Dam and flows about 50 miles down the North Platte River to Central’s diversion dam. Water from NPPD’s supply canal returns to the Platte River just above Central’s diversion dam. The diversion dam, located just below the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers, diverts water into Central’s Supply Canal, which runs for 75.5 miles on the south side of the Platte River Valley. Along the way, the Supply Canal forms 26 small lakes along the way that are suitable for recreational purposes.

The public is permitted to use the entire length of the canal for recreational purposes, excluding areas around Central’s three hydroelectric plants and NPPD’s Canaday Steam Plant. Much of the canal is paralleled by maintenance roads or state and county roads. The canal, which carries water year-round, and the canyon lakes are used for hunting, hiking, canoeing, camping and fishing. Only wakeless boating is allowed on the canal to prevent bank erosion.

Fishing and hunting are the two most popular recreational pursuits along the canal. Channel catfish are the most common fish taken from the canal, although fishermen also hook white bass, walleye and flathead catfish.

The small lakes along the canal were formed when engineers found it better to dam the mouths of many of the canyons along the canal’s route rather than build flumes or siphons to transport the water over or under them. The lakes range in size to less than 1 acre to more than 500 acres and are mostly undeveloped because of their remote location and steep banks that sometimes makes access to the water difficult. In addition to recreational opportunities, the lakes provide habitat for a variety of native and migratory fish and wildlife.

Some of the larger lakes like Jeffrey (south of Brady, Neb.), Midway (south of Cozad, Neb.), Gallagher Canyon (southeast of Cozad) and Plum Creek Canyon have developments such as boat ramps, primitive campgrounds, picnic facilities and private cabins. A State Recreation Area at Gallagher Canyon provides facilities for primitive camping. Gallagher Canyon is designated as a wakeless boating lake.

Johnson Lake, although not a canyon lake, is the largest on Central’s supply canal. A regulating reservoir for the Johnson No. 1 and Johnson No. 2 hydroplants downstream, Johnson Lake is highly developed for recreational activities. Homes and cabins line the shorelines and the NGPC maintains two campgrounds with electrical hookups, boat ramps, restrooms and showers. A swimming beach is also available to the public. The NGPC charges a daily camping fee and a park entry permit is required at the SRA.