The Jeffrey Reservoir project began in the late 1930s, following Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District’s inception in 1933. The canal and supply lake system created is still in use today across the Platte Valley area. Instead of creating supply reservoirs from scratch, CNPPID walled off canyons in the hills south of Brady to create the lake we now know as a popular fishing, boating, and recreation destination.
At 595 total surface acres, Jeffrey Reservoir is the second largest supply lake in the extensive irrigation canal system. In addition to irrigation, CNPPID also developed four hydroplants along the canals, with the Jeffrey plant boasting the first power generated in January of 1941. In addition to these practical resources, the reservoir is a haven for diverse species of fish and wildlife, thanks to CNPPID’S dedication to creating and preserving the Platte River Valley habitat. In fact, just this year, a bald eagle established a nest in a tree overhanging the lake.
Local lake dwellers, David and Jody (Healey) Mann shared some insight into the history of the area, as well as their own family.
Jody’s dad moved here from Iowa in the 30s to help build the lake, and it has been in the Healey family blood ever since. In the 1950s, both the Healeys and the Manns (David’s parents) had simple, primitive cabins on the shores of Jeffrey Reservoir, and fostered a love for lake life in their children.
When Dave and Jody married, it didn’t take them long to find their own piece of shoreline. They purchased a one-bedroom cabin in 1973, which they expanded and made their family home. Jody says, “We never had to wonder where our kids were. They were always here with their friends in the lake.”
At the time, only a handful of families lived there permanently, but it had a neighborhood feel. Just trade the bicycles and skateboards from town for boats and jet skis on the water. The Mann’s youngest son, Jim, made the most out of every minute.
“We always ran around on 3 wheelers, fished, boated, and swam. There was never a dull moment. Always had friends around, always had something to do.”
He went on to tell story after story of how blessed he felt to grow up with an entire recreation area in his backyard. It’s an attachment that keeps growing. After spending most of their adult life away, Jim and his wife, Jamie, recently moved back to sink their roots in the water. Now, their children and grandchildren carry on the tradition.
Most weekends you will hear the pitter patter of little feet on their boat dock, giggles and splashes while flying off the rope swing, and the smell of burgers on the grill.
Five generations of Manns have been bitten by the lake bug, an inclination that will continue for many generations to come. All around them, the lake community continues to expand. What started as a few basic cabins has grown into 120 individually owned houses on Jeffrey Reservoir, approximately 25 of which are occupied year-round.
Jeffrey has a different feel than most area lakes because there are no camping areas, rental cabins or other public amenities. The majority of people enjoying it’s appeal are familiar faces that live here for the weekend or the summer. It truly is a neighborhood, a community, an experience, unique in Nebraska. Memorial Day weekend saw the waves teeming with boaters, wake surfers, fishermen, and even a few kayakers paddling serenely.
This lake love affair is unlikely to end anytime soon. Jody’s final remarks summed it up perfectly, “It’s still awesome to get on a boat, drive up and down the lake in the evenings and see everyone. It just never gets old.”