Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

  • Virtual Nebraska Logo

Virtual Nebraska

Educational Modules

Salt Creek Watershed Project

Introduction

The Salt Creek Watershed is a fairly small watershed in comparisons to such watersheds as the Platte River or Missouri River watersheds. However it is unique in that it goes through dramatic physical and chemical changes in very small distances. Salt Creek starts out as a meandering stream that is filled with aquatic life and ends up a channelized stream that is basically "dead" by the time it gets to the Platte River. Salt Creek Watershed is also very unique because of the salt marshes that exist. Although the Salt Marshes are almost gone, some salt marshes are left alone and you can witness a very unique and rare ecosystem in operation.

Salt Creek begins south and west of Lincoln. Salt Creek comes from the south and Oak Creek comes from the west and they converge in the city of Lincoln. The Little Salt Creek flows into Salt Creek from the north, as does Rock Creek. Wahoo Creek flows into Salt Creek from the north just before Salt Creek dumps into the Platte River. Many other smaller streams and tributaries flow into Salt Creek but the ones listed previously are the main contributors to the amount of water in the system. A unique historical note about Salt Creek is that it is one of the few systems in the country that flow to the Northeast. Most river systems in Nebraska flow in a general direction from Northwest or West to Southeast or East based on the topography of the land. Salt Creek fails to follow the norm and generally flows from the Southwest to the Northeast until it dumps into the Platte.

Salt Creek was channelized years ago in attempt to reduce flooding in and around the Capitol City of Lincoln, Nebraska. Channeling a water system allows the system to carry more water and move it out of the city faster. Salt Creek becomes channelized as it enters Lincoln and stays channelized the rest of its existence. Channelization is a known cause of a decrease in biodiversity in fish, plants, and wildlife of an ecosystem or watershed.

Salt Creek is the system where Lincoln dumps the treated sewage water. This happens around 27th and Cornhusker Highway. All of the run-off from streets, etc. also dump into the system. Salt Creek basically takes all of Lincoln's run-off and sewage. The quality of water that the students will see before and after Lincoln will be drastically different.

The Salt Creek Watershed provides numerous lakes, wetlands, and marshes for the outdoor enthusiast. Back in the "good-ol-days" the salt valley lakes provide excellent Largemouth Bass fishing and other species as well. As of today, most of the lakes are silted in and the fishing quality and quantity has decreased. Salt Creek Watershed provides hunting opportunities for waterfowl and upland birds because of the amount of marshes and lakes that are contained in the watershed.

The goal of this project is for students to witness the change of the overall quality of a watershed before and after it goes through a city as well as the watershed's creek becoming channelized.