Historical Changes in Large River Fish Assemblages of the Americas

Historical Changes in Fish Distribution and Abundance in the Platte River in Nebraska

E. J. Peters and S. Schainost

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569728.ch14

Abstract.—From its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, the Platte River drains 230,362 km2 in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. The Platte River is formed by the confluence of the North Platte and South Platte near the city of North Platte, Nebraska, and receives additional flow from the Loup and Elkhorn rivers that drain the Sand Hills region of Nebraska. Water diversions for mining and irrigation began in the 1840s in Colorado and Wyoming, and irrigation diversions in Nebraska began in the 1850s. Construction of dams for control of river flows commenced on the North Platte River in Wyoming in 1904. Additional dams and diversions in the North Platte, South Platte, and Platte rivers have extensively modified natural flow patterns and caused interruptions of flows. Pollution, from mining, industrial, municipal, and agricultural sources, and introductions of 24 nonnative species have also taken their toll. Fishes of the basin were little studied before changes in land use, pollution, and introduction of exotic species began. The current fish fauna totals approximately 100 species from 20 families. Native species richness declines westward, but some species find refugia in western headwaters streams. Declines in 26 native species has led to their being listing as species of concern by one or more basin states.