Merritt Reservoir is more than a lake. It is an 11 mile long, 2906 surface acre irrigation impoundment with 44 miles of shoreline. The lake’s pure waters maintain an outstanding forage base which has promoted Merritt to become of one the top trophy fisheries. It is thought that 90% of Merritt’s water holds fish – the exact opposite of most bodies of water.
Size & Depth – 3,000 acres at a conservation pool elevation of 2,946 feet above mean sea level. Maximum depth is 111 feet with an average depth of 25 feet. Water levels are stable, except during summer irrigation season when they drop.
Water Source – An impoundment of the Snake River completed in 1964 by the Bureau of Reclamation. Boardman Creek is the only significant tributary. Primary water uses are irrigation and recreation.
Water – Fertile with varying clarity. Heavy summer algae blooms greatly reduce clarity, but Secchi disk readings of 6 feet are sometimes recorded in spring. The lake is considered rather clear compared to other Nebraska impoundment’s.
Shoreline – Sporadically timbered rolling hills surround much of the 44 miles of shoreline. Bottom composition is 98% sand, as is the bulk of the shore. Erosion and siltation occur.
Cover – Weed growth develops in various coves and shallows from late spring until the summer drawdown. Areas of submerged timber remaining from pre-impoundment years provide good habitat for fish. A local organization constructs tire-reefs that attract fish each summer. The local Fire Department has an on-going habitat improvement program using discarded Christmas trees.
What’s in a name?
Ever wondered how Merritt got its name? Well we did, and after researching we came up with the following information: Merritt Dam is named for J.M. Merritt, who had a long career with Nebraska Game, Forestation and Parks Commission. Merritt was the Superintendent of the Valentine Fish Hatchery for three years, and was a resident of the Valentine area between 1923 and 1933. The Dam was dedicated on October 10, 1964.
Here’s some more trivia-Nebraska is derived from the Omaha Indian word Nibthaska, which means “flat water.” The name was given to the Platte River because it is broad and shallow.
For more about the fish living in these waters, click here.