Nebraska Academy of Sciences


Date of this Version



Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 38 (2018), 36–46.

doi: 10.13014/K29021ZK


Copyright 2018 Nicole M. Pauley, Mary J. Harner, Emma M. Brinley Buckley, Paul R. Burger, and Keith Geluso


The Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) of Nebraska provides critical habitat for wildlife, while serving agricultural, indus­trial, and other human uses. Mining of sand and gravel from the floodplain of the Platte River has supported construction of roads and other uses, and this extraction has created many borrow-pit ponds, lakes, and other small bodies of standing water (hereafter borrow-pits), further transforming riparian and prairie habitats. The objective of this study was to compare the abundance, size, and distribution of borrow pits before construction of Interstate 80 (1957) and at present (2016) from Lexington to Chapman, Nebraska, a length of river spanning about 146 km (90 mi) and sometimes referred to as the Big Bend Reach. Orthorectified aerial imagery of the Platte River was obtained for years 1957 and 2016, and we digitized the standing bodies of water within the floodplain in Arc­GIS. Total numbers of borrow pits and measures of pit shape were calculated and compared between floodplain regions where im­agery overlapped. From 1957 to 2016, the number of borrow pits increased from 300 to 786, total area occupied by pits expanded by 538%, and total shoreline of pits increased by 261%. In 2016, aerial imagery was available for a larger extent of the floodplain and contained a total of 1,062 borrow pits covering 16 km2 (6 mi2), with a total shoreline of 581 km (361 mi). For context, the Platte River channels’ approximate area was 45 km2 (17 mi2) and shoreline 1,582 km (983 mi) between Lexington and Chapman, Nebraska, in 2016. Results provide insight into historical and current presence, distribution, and shape of borrow pits along the Platte River, as well as serve as a reference point for future studies investigating regional landscape change and ecological effects of creating hun­dreds of borrow pits on the floodplain.