Possible new paddling area?

I recently moved to a different state, Nebraska, and decided to take up a new hobby, canoeing. If you’ve seen any of my other posts, you may know that I have been canoeing as often as possible on the lake and the river near my home. Always looking for new excitement right outdide my door… I recently heard about the Tri-County Supply Canal.

It’s a 75 mile long canal with 26 small lakes on it. It was built in the 1930s to maintain a consistent flow of water for irrigation purposes. Water from the Platte River is diverted through it, and apparently maintained at a certain flow and rate. From what I understand, canoeing is allowed on all of it, except for sections adjacent to 3 hydro power plants. It’s in a pretty remote location, minimal roads nearby, and it runs though canyons mostly.

Here’s what it generally looks like, at least the sections I have seen.


The following quote is from the website of Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District. They would be, I guess, the owners of the 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.”

I’m pretty excited to check this area out. It would be a trip for just my wife and I, we’d leave the kids with Grandma. Are there any potential issues I should consider before doing this trip? Being new to canoeing, I don’t want to get in over my head, so to speak. Does anyone have any ideas of potential resources for info on this canal? Should I contact CNPPID directly with questions. I’m wondering things like hazards in the water, currents, stuff like that.


More info…

– Last Updated: May-08-12 7:30 AM EST –

Here's a map of the area.


The area I'm most intetested in is Hiles Canyon Lake, through the Midway Lakes, to Gallagher Canyon State Recreation Area. That would be about 15 miles, passing through 5 lakes.

Here's a video I found of Gallagher canyon.


Radial gates?
Just found this worrisome bit of info.

“Now to your main question: When storage conditions in the lake are at or near normal levels, and inflows are at or near normal levels, there is naturally more water available to run through the system. Understandably, that would make you think that that would translate to more water in the Supply Canal (the �Tri-County Canal,� as you referred to it), and the lakes along its route, right? Well, yes and no.

Central typically operates its canal in a manner that minimizes fluctuations in the canal�s water level. This is done to avoid (as much as possible) shoreline erosion that occurs if the water level is going up and down. We are able to manage the water level through the use of the many control structures (mostly radial gates) along the canal. For example, the canal�s water level is normally the same whether the canal is carrying 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 500 cfs. The flow rate may change, but the water level remains fairly stable. Sections of the canal can be operated like a series of bathtubs, equalizing the water level in each section through manipulation of the rate at which water flows through them.”

What is a radial gate? I wonder if access is clear from Hiles all the way down to Gallagher?

google, google, google

well, the tri-county canal didn’t seem to make the water trails list, though it may be on there somewhere if you look hard enough.

one thing you should watch out for in a canal, is a quickening of the current - that may mean the water is going over a small ledge which may be there to control the speed of flow, or to put some oxygen into the water, or possibly the water is flowing thru a culvert under a road (culverts are a lot cheaper than building bridges over the canal for every road crossing) - any of which may present a hazard - just pay attention and make a cautious approach - if the current is getting faster and faster to the point where you might start having trouble stopping, I’d pull over to the bank and scout ahead. A culvert could be blocked by debris, or the current could be directied into a feeder canal or something. No idea if any of that applies to your canal, but I’ve seem stuff like that on other irrigation canals, stuff like a big grate across the culvert to catch brush and stuff.

you know, google is a powerfuyl tool - all you have to do is a general question in the search box and you will find the answer, or many answers - it took me about 3 seconds to find this - which may or may not be what is on that canal


maybe if you just googled for “canoeing the Tri-County Canal” you might find a trip report or something ? worth a look.

Thanks Matt!
Thanks for the info about canals! I have googled this subject extensively and found little to nothing. I did find one reference to a university research group canoeing one section in 2008. No trip report, just a mention that it happened. Canoeing seems to be just about completely off the radar in Nebraska. I’ve never seen another one on the water, or on a vehicle other than mine.

Some info
Historical flow rates:


Lots of people seem to use it for fishing but give some info about what it’s like:



Thanks Alan!

– Last Updated: May-08-12 5:00 PM EST –

Great info, thanks alot!

I just called and talked to a very helpful guy at CNPPID. He told me that a canoe trip through there would be great, and that the secenery is very pretty. He said there is always enough water there and should be no problems going where I intend. He said there is one gate at East Midway Lake. It would look like this.


He said the bank is steep, but he does not think that portaging around it would be any problem. Or if I wanted to avoid it, he suggested just going from Hiles Canyon, down through West and Central Midway Lakes, and ending at East Midway. That would be about 10 miles. If I did portage around the gate, it would be just another 5 miles to Gallagher Canyon State Recreation Area. He said it should be a lot of fun.

Map of possible route.

– Last Updated: May-10-12 8:59 AM EST –

Here is a map of my possible route.


Any thoughts? This route would be avoiding the portage. You can see the gate a bit further east on the canal. You get a pretty good view of it on Flash Earth. It does look like it would be easy to portage around it. It sure would be nice to end the trip at Gallagher Canyon State Recreation Area, since they have primitive camping there.

Here is the Flash Earth up-close view…

That link shows the put-in, just east of the gate. You can scroll to follow the canal to the east.

National Geographic photo of area…
I found this photo while googling for info on this area. This photo is looking south over one of the 3 lakes near the end of my proposed route. It looks amazing! In about the middle of the photo, on the left side, you can see the canal exiting the lake. That would be headed east, connecting Central Midway Lake to East Midway Lake.