At first glance, Carter Lake is basically no different than any other ordinary small town in the United States — but the bizarre geography of Carter Lake in Iowa is given an interesting twist thanks to its history.
The Bizarre Geography of Carter Lake in Iowa.
A monument on Avenue H welcomes visitors to Carter Lake, with the borders of the town in the correct orientation, as the top is due north. The blue “hair” on top of the “head” is the lake itself.
A small park is located at the corner of Avenue R and North 8 Street on the northern edge of town. The park does not seem to have an official name.
The park offers access to Carter Lake itself and has a couple of benches on which visitors can sit and relax while taking in the view of Nebraska across the lake. Do not forget to greet the metal giraffe that is in the private backyard of the house next door.
“Carter Lake, IA is a unique city because it is the only city in Iowa located west of the Missouri River. In March of 1877, there was a major flood that changed the flow of the Missouri River, thus creating an oxbow lake. This lake was called Carter Lake, which is how the town got its name”, according to the official Internet web site of the small city. “Since state boundaries usually follow the general course of a river, there was a dispute for some time whether Carter Lake should belong to Iowa or Nebraska. In 1892, the Supreme Court ruled that Carter Lake belonged to Iowa. However, Carter Lake did not become its own municipality until 1930 when it successfully seceded from Council Bluffs.”
This park is one of several parks in Carter Lake, which offers many amenities to its residents. They are proud of its many lakeside activities, beautiful scenery, a golf course overlooking the shore, and its own downtown. Carter Lake also has an industrial area on its west end. If you have ever used a stapler, you have likely used the products of Bostitch, which is headquartered on East Locust Street in Carter Lake.
This suburb of Omaha — which is located in Pottawattamie County — “quickly became a popular destination, as it was the perfect place for several water activities. When it started out, there were several hotels and clubhouses, as well as a boathouse. The lake was used by many for rowing, boating, and fishing.”
Final Boarding Call
Although the meandering of rivers in general over the decades has caused other geographic anomalies, Carter Lake allowed me to do something which I had never done before: walk through another state while walking from an airport to downtown. I am not sure this could be done anywhere else; and I thought that was a strangely cool thing to do…
Carter Lake is one of several places you should consider visiting in the Omaha metropolitan area.
Carter Lake is located northeast of downtown Omaha and southwest of Eppley Field. It can only be accessed on the southern side of town due to the lake itself. Several hotel properties are located in the southeastern part of the city along Abbott Drive if you want to stay overnight in Iowa rather than Nebraska.
All photographs ©2023 by Brian Cohen.