The Amazing Story of the Iowa City on the West Side of the Missouri River
I think all Iowans know that the state is bordered on the east by the Mississippi River and on the west by the Missouri River. Most of us, at least in eastern Iowa, know about the town of Sabula that sits on an island in the Mississippi. However, did you know there's also an Iowa city on the western border that actually sits on the other, or western side, of the Missouri River? That city has quite a history.
Let's start with an overhead photo. The Missouri River is to the right, with the broken line indicating the Iowa/Nebraska state line in the middle of the river. The city toward the center of the picture is Carter Lake, a city that's nearly an island. If you look closely in the body of water on the river-side of town, you can see a broken line and the word 'Iowa.' Carter Lake is the Iowa city surrounded by Nebraska. Here's why.
According to the city's website, once-upon-a-time, Carter Lake was known as Cut-Off Island. The Missouri River changed course after a flood in the late 1870s, and afterward, both Iowa and Nebraska believed the area should belong to them. The problem was, the two nearby cities of Omaha and Council Bluffs didn't want to incur the costs of making utilities available to the citizens. They both wanted the taxes, though. It all led to the courts.
In 1892, the Carter Lake website says the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that,
state lines remain the same when a river avulsed or dramatically altered, its path in 1877. Therefore, the land had never left Iowa, despite its position on the Nebraska side of the river.
So it was decided. The town belonged to Iowa.
In 1909, the name Carter Lake was born. It would be given to both the city and the crescent or horseshoe-shaped body of water that surrounded most of it. It wasn't until 1930, that Carter Lake would be an incorporated, Iowa city.
Carter Lake has had several popular resorts through the years, all of which are now closed. According to suburban stats, the town now has 3,785 residents.