Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Date of this Version

August 1966


Presented at the meeting of the Central Mountains and Plains Section of the Wildlife Society, Pingree Park, Colorado, August 16, 1966. This work was per~ formed under the provisions of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, Project W-15-R. Copyright © 1966 Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Used by permission.


Merritt Dam and the Ainsworth Canal were constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation to provide irrigation water for the vicinity of Ainsworth in north central Nebraska. The reservoir was completed in 1964 and at capacity has an area of 2,906 surface acres. The canal commences at the Dam, 27 miles southwest of Valentine, and extends eastward for 52.8 miles to Highway 20 east of Johnstown. The canal, along with 174 miles of laterals and 63 miles of drains, serves to irrigate about 34,000 acres of farmland.

The Ainsworth Canal is lined with concrete along its entire length. In the western sections of 22 miles, the height is 8.4 feet, bottom width is 9 feet, and water depth is 7.22 feet at capacity. In the eastern sections (30.8 miles) the height is 6.5 feet, bottom width is 7 feet, and water depth is 5.3 feet at capacity. Water velocity is 6.22 feet/second in the lower section and 3. 4 feet/ second in the upper section. Maximum discharge is about 580 cubic feet/second. The canal was completed in early 1965.

Along the canal are 6 siphons, 16 drop structures and 17 bridges. In all, there are 38 places where deer can cross without entering the canal. Five of the siphons are located at creeks and the sixth at U.S. Highway 20. These siphons provide segments through which deer cannot pass and live. Drop structures are not a barrier to movement of deer in either direction during light flows. Under greater flows, deer would probably be unable to move through a drop.

The majority of the canal runs through typical sandhill terrain, with sub-irrigated meadows, moderately rolling hills and rough hills present. Grasses are predominant, with an abundance of forbs and some brush, particularly in the rougher areas. Timber is limited to three stream courses, the Snake River, Gordon Creek and Plum Creek, and to areas where planted by man. Deer densities are relatively low over most of the area, probably about two per square mile. The harvest in 1965 was 0.166 deer per square mile, or 6.0 square miles per deer.