Carter Lake: A Slice of Iowa in Nebraska (Brief History) by John Schreier


Reviewed by Teri Davis

Carter LakeWhy is a small section of Iowa surrounded by Omaha, Nebraska? Imagine a person arrives at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, and as they drive into the city, they see a sign stating, “Welcome to Iowa.” As they continue down the road, they quickly see another sign, welcoming them to the city of Omaha, Nebraska. Confused? For many travelers, this is a problem many encounter. Carter Lake, Iowa is in this situation.

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With the Missouri River being the dividing line between Iowa and Nebraska, the land east of the river belongs to Iowa, west to Nebraska. What happens when the river changes its path moving east a mile? Years ago, Dr. Thomas Jefferis purchased thirty acres of swampy land near the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa along with other land parcels throughout the area.

However, in 1877, the Missouri River flooded. When the waters finally receded the pathway of the river had changed. Dr. Jefferis’ land was now west of the river with deposits of new land.

Who owns the land now? Who is the owner of the additional new land forced into place by the river? With a new crescent-shaped lake surrounding much of this land, this Cut-Off Island quickly became in dispute between the previous owner and the two neighboring states.

Carter Lake, formerly known as Cut-Off Island has a unique history while trying to alternately be independent while maintaining its relationship with its birth-state, Iowa. Being separated from Council Bluffs has caused a multitude of problems for this community. From schools for their children, police and fire protection, to taxation, and being a refuge for criminals, Carter Lake maintains its individuality while sometimes being assisted by its mother city, an eight-mile drive, Council Bluffs.

John Schreier, the author, bases his interest in Carter Lake from growing up in Omaha, Nebraska and graduating from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with a double major in history and journalism. While managing editor of the Daily Nonpareil, he still finds time to contribute articles to Sports Illustrated, the Denver Post, and the Omaha World-Herald.

Carter Lake is a short book for anyone who enjoys history. What is unique about this book is that Carter Lake, while a small city, becomes a character fighting to maintain its individuality. Between bullied by Omaha at times and not being protected by either its big brother, Council Bluffs or its parent, Iowa, Schreier successfully demonstrates the success of this community in achieving their dreams.