Carter Lake, Iowa

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Carter Lake is a city in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, United States. The population was 3,248 at the 2000 census.



Carter Lake is located at 41°17′34″N 95°54′50″W / 41.29278°N 95.91389°W / 41.29278; -95.91389 (41.292647, -95.913989)[1].

The city is surrounded on three sides by Omaha, Nebraska and on the fourth by the Missouri River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.0 square miles (5.2 km²), of which, 1.8 square miles (4.7 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km²) of it (9.95%) is water.


Carter Lake is the only city in Iowa located west of the Missouri River. This is due to a flood that occurred in March 1877, which redirected the course of the river 2 km (1.25 mi) to the southeast. The remnants of the old river course, which were called Saratoga Bend, became an oxbow lake, Carter Lake, for which the town is named today.

Soon after the formation of the lake, the site became a flourishing recreational area. It included, "a boathouse at the foot of Locust street, hotels and club houses were numerous and the lake was the scene of many a pleasant rowing and fishing party."[2]

After extensive litigation between Iowa and Nebraska, in 1892 the Supreme Court of the United States finally ruled that Carter Lake belonged to Iowa in Nebraska v. Iowa, 143 U.S. 359 (1891). Although the general rule is that state boundaries follow gradual changes in the course of a river, the Court ruled that an exception exists when a river avulses one of its bends. In 1972, the court made another ruling on the circumstances of Carter Lake when it ruled on a boundary dispute between the two states in Nebraska v. Iowa, 406 U.S. 117 (1972)[3].

Legally considered part of Council Bluffs, residents lacked the basic city services enjoyed by residents east of the Missouri but were still subject to city taxes. The community successfully seceded in the 1920s, intending to become part of Omaha, but the Nebraska city did not want to pay to extend sewers or water lines either and in 1930 Carter Lake was incorporated as its own municipality.

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