Early Omaha: Gateway to the West

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On April 1st, 1881, a large ice jam on the Missouri River near Yankton, South Dakota, broke apart releasing floodwaters down the Missouri valley. Water reached Omaha on April 6, 1881. The U.S. Government built a temporary dam around businesses on the riverbank but it did not hold. This photograph looking northeast shows the Omaha Smelting Works and Union Pacific shops under water.

Flooded area around Douglas & Farnam Streets; E.L. Eaton, Photographer

Floodwaters crested at 23˝ feet on April 7, 1881, at 6 p.m. This depth was 2 feet higher than ever recorded on the “Big Muddy”. The Missouri had also reached a width of 5 miles covering all the lowlands between Omaha, NE and Council Bluffs, IA.

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