Carter Lake, Iowa & Nebraska, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Iowa - Southwest - Nebraska - Metro -

In the late 1800’s the Missouri River changed its course, altering the future of the area around Omaha, Nebraska and creating Carter Lake. Spanning parts of the southwest region of Iowa and the Metro region of Nebraska, Carter Lake quickly earned the reputation as a fantastic recreation destination. It is a title the lake still holds today with visitors flocking to the lake to fish, swim, boat and water ski, stopping at the end of the day to enjoy the nightlife and cultural opportunities of the City of Omaha.

Carter Lake is an oxbow lake created when the flood of 1877 caused the Missouri River to shift. When the flood waters receded, the river flowed through a different channel and 315-acre Carter Lake was left behind. The lake was originally called Cut-Off Lake and was renamed Lake Nacoma in 1906. It became Carter Lake in 1908 after Selina Carter Cornish donated land around the lake. Carter Lake and the Levi Carter Park on the northern shore of the lake were named in honor of Levi Carter, owner of the Omaha White Lead Works.

Almost immediately after its creation, Carter Lake became a popular recreation lake with vacation rentals springing up around its shore. It was so popular that both states wanted it, and ownership of the lake was litigated back and forth between Iowa and Nebraska, finally ending at the US Supreme Court. It was eventually determined that Iowa owns slightly less than a third of the lake, including the City of Carter Lake in Pottawattamie County. Nebraska owns the remaining two thirds in Douglas County. The City of Omaha borders the lake on the Nebraska side.

Carter Lake has a maximum depth of 28 feet and an average depth of eight feet. It is an excessively fertile lake (hypereutrophic), and a significant effort was made starting in 2005 to remove excess nutrients. Water quality has improved, and the Carter Lake Preservation Society continues to monitor the lake. The society was created to enable volunteers from both states to work together to protect and improve Carter Lake.

Access to the lake is from two public ramps, and all types of boats are welcome on Carter Lake. During the summer its location in Omaha and the City of Carter Lake makes it a popular place to water ski and jet ski. Anglers should expect significant boat traffic on summer weekends. Part of rehabilitating Carter Lake includes stocking the lake with bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish. The occasional walleye can also be found in the lake. Levi Carter Park is on the northern shore of the lake and has ADA accessible fishing along with restrooms, ball fields and a picnic pavilion.

Ducks, geese and swans all make their homes at Carter Lake, and the lake is especially popular with bald eagles. It is not uncommon to see 15 to 20 eagles soaring over the lake at a time. The lake provides both animals and people with a pocket of nature in a very urban setting. The lake is only two miles from downtown Omaha and adjacent to Eppley Airfield. Both vacation rentals and real estate for sale can be found around Carter Lake. Easy accessibility, shops, restaurants and museums make Carter Lake a favorite with city residents and visitors alike.

Things to do at Carter Lake IA

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Picnicking
  • Birding
  • Museum

Fish species found at Carter Lake IA

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Carter Lake IA Photo Gallery

Carter Lake IA Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 315 acres

Shoreline Length: 7 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 977 feet

Average Depth: 8 feet

Maximum Depth: 28 feet

Water Volume: 2,520 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1877

Water Residence Time: 3.04 Years

Drainage Area: 4 sq. miles

Trophic State: Hyper-eutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

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