Indian Creek Community Lake

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Published on: May. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

When people think of north Missouri water resources, they usually picture brown-stained, sediment-laden streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. Indian Creek Community Lake in Livingston County sheds that brown and muddy stereotype. This 192-acre body of water near Chillicothe shows that good planning and careful construction can result in a high quality community lake that won't fill with sediment in a few decades.

When they closed the valve on the newly constructed Indian Creek Community Lake in mid-July of 1988, Conservation Department employees were unsure whether the lake would ever provide a quality fishery. Although the lake is nestled in a rugged, beautiful wooded valley on Poosey Conservation Area, the lake would receive water that drained from roads, farmsteads, feedlots, pastures, crop fields, forests, utility rights-of way, dumps, logging trails, lawns and gardens. Given those circumstances, you might expect the lake would be murky and contain suspended sediment, similar to many other north-central Missouri impoundments.

The lake was slow to fill, thanks to dry weather from mid-1988 through 1989. Finally, the spring rains of 1990 raised the lake level 25 feet in about 10 weeks, and the lake filled for the first time on June 15 of that year. Fisheries biologists measured water clarity and found it to be about four times clearer than might be expected in north Missouri farm country.

The high water quality of Indian Creek Community Lake is the result of the Conservation Department's aggressive efforts to intercept the sediment from the different land uses. They looked at every path the water could take to enter the lake and where possible they took efforts to reduce its sediment load.

Controlling sediment and keeping the lake clear seemed at first an impossible task. The Conservation Department owned less than 30 percent of the lake's watershed. About 60 percent of the watershed was in row crops, mostly soybeans, with no soil or water conservation practices in place.

Of the five main drainage networks that started in the uplands and formed a major arm of the lake, the Conservation Department had control of soil erosion on only about half of one drainage, or about 10 percent of the total.

What's more, most of the forest land that had been purchased by the Conservation Department had recently been harvested. Although the cut over areas were not eroding, a network of logging roads and skid trails had become gullies that carried tons of sediment to Indian Creek.

Other sediment challenges

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