Harlan County Reservoir

Franklin's Gulls at Harlan County Reservoir Photo by Linda R. Brown
Franklin’s Gulls at Harlan County Reservoir Photo by Linda R. Brown

Located in Harlan County, immediately south of Republican City near the Kansas border on the Republican River. The upland area includes 17, 750 acres while the reservoir contains 13,338 acres of surface water at full pool. Harlan Reservoir is the 2nd largest lake in Nebraska and at normal water levels provides 75 miles of shoreline habitat. Unlike most Nebraska reservoirs, Harlan’s recreational lands are administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Dedicated in 1952, the two-mile wide dam was built to avert another disastrous flood like the one that occurred in 1935 which claimed 104 lives along the Republican River. Camping facilities and private concessions are available.

Harlan is surrounded by extensive tracts of woodlands, brush, grasslands and weedy areas which attract a wide variety of perching birds. It also attracts good numbers of bald eagles, geese (especially Canada geese), some sandhill cranes during spring and fall, and has a population of greater prairie-chickens (on the south side of the reservoir). Near the south end of the dam is an eagle roost. Look for burrowing owls in the prairie dog colony between Republican City and the administration area. Some interesting sightings at Harlan over the last few years include, common loon, black-legged kittiwake, parasitic jaeger, little blue heron, white-faced ibis, black-necked stilt and Sabines gulls.

In the winter, large numbers of Bald Eagles, gulls and waterfowl can be seen depending upon how much open water is present. There has been a double-crested cormorant rookery at the western end of the lake since 1995 and a great blue heron rookery downstream from the dam. With lake levels at record lows in recent years, mudflats have provided tremendous shorebird viewing especially on the western end south of Alma. Some wooded parks on the north side of the lake provide good habitat for woodland birds. Prairie grasslands and open farmland all around the lake offer good opportunities for open country birds. There are 2 nature trails passing through the area, one passing through native prairie and the other through woodland. There is considerable public access along the river and around the Harlan County Reservoir.


Contact Info

Harlan County Lake Project Office U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 128
Republican City, NE 68971
(308) 799-2105
Alma Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 52
Alma, NE 68920
(308) 928-2992