Hydrologic Setting of Two Interdunal Valleys in the Central Sand Hills of Nebraska

Authors

  • David C. Gosselin,

    1. School of Natural Resource Sciences and Conservation and Survey Division, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 113 Nebraska Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0517.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Steve Drda,

    1. School of Natural Resource Sciences and Conservation and Survey Division, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 113 Nebraska Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0517.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • F. Edwin Harvey,

    1. School of Natural Resource Sciences and Conservation and Survey Division, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 113 Nebraska Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0517.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jim Goeke

    1. School of Natural Resource Sciences and Conservation and Survey Division, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 113 Nebraska Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0517.
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

The Sand Hills of Nebraska, one of the largest grass-stabilized dune regions in the world, has nearly 5000 km2 of wetland environments and is one of the most productive waterfowl regions of the United States. Yet, the hydrology of the region is not well defined. This paper presents the results of a two-and-a-half-year study to characterize the hydrology of two distinctly different interdunal valleys within the Sand Hills. The valleys, located at the Gudmundsen Sand Hills Laboratory in the central Sand Hills, reflect the two major types of interdunal environments: dry, short grass valleys (the east valley) and subirrigated wet meadows (the west valley). In the west valley, ground water flows from west to east and there are significant, upward vertical gradients (0.005 to 0.045). In contrast, ground water in the east valley predominantly flows from west-southwest to east-northeast. Where vertical gradients exist, they are downward (0.0025 to 0.07). Therefore, the east valley is a “recharge” or flow-through valley. Seasonal ground water table fluctuations indicate that net recharge is greatest between growing seasons. The relatively high topographic relief of the water table on the flanks of the west valley, resulting from higher topographic relief of the adjacent dunes, drives ground water discharge into the valley wetland, developing a local flow system. In contrast, the topography of the water table in the east valley, which is flanked by dunes with lower relief, is insufficient to generate a distinct local ground water flow system.

Ancillary