National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


Republican River Flood of May 30, 1935

 This website is dedicated to preserving the history of the Republican River Flood of 1935.


Fresh water moving at about 4 mph exerts a force of approximately 66 pounds per foot on anything it encounters. Double the speed of the water to 8 mph and the force increases to 264 pounds per foot, enough energy to sweep a car off a road. Disaster Medicine by David E. Hogan, Jonathan L. Burstein (Editors) – page 218


Where did the rain fall to create this flood?


Historic map from Follansbee & Spiegel.

Contoured map with river streams using GIS.

Follansbee & Spiegel

Follansbee & Spiegel

How rainfall was measured?

Since most of the rain didn't fall near the official cooperative weather observer's rain gages, a bucket survey was conducted to find the rainfall distribution.

Below are the gage stations mapped and listed that were used to create the rainfall map by Follansbee & Spiegel.


Follansbee & Spiegel gauging stations

A Closer Look at Impacted Communities

Below is a map of towns that we have taken a closer look at. Click on each town to learn more about how the flood impacted the community.

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Map of when the flood impacted towns along the river

Times are given on the map below to indicate when the flood started to impact that town. The flood started in Eastern Colorado near Cope around 3 a.m. on May 31, 1935 after intense rainfall the day before. The flood impacted Oxford, Nebraska by 4 a.m. on June 1st; Superior, Nebraska by 1 a.m. on June 2nd; and Clay Center, Kansas by 2 a.m. on June 3rd.

Map of peak flood crest times

From Follansbee & Spiegel, 1937, the water traveled from 2.7 mph to 10.7 mph depending on the terrain. The following table shows the different speeds the water traveled from town to town.


Time water traveled


Miles Traveled

Speed of Travel

5 hours

St. Francis to Benkelman


5.0 mph

45 minutes

Benkelman to Max


10.7 mph

2 hours 15 minutes

Max to Trenton


9.1 mph

1 hour 30 minutes

Trenton to Culbertson


6.7 mph

2 hours

Culbertson to McCook


5.5 mph

4 hours 30 minutes

McCook to Cambridge


5.6 mph

5 hours

Cambridge to Oxford


5.6 mph

Flood Inundation Maps

In the Educational Circular 16; published by Conservation and Survey Division, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2002 by R. F. Diffendal et al. titled Field Guide to the Geology of the Harlan County Lake Area, Harlan County, Nebraska - with a History of Events Leading to the Construction of Harlan County Dam, a map of the inundated area during the 1935 flood was presented and is shown below.

River Crest Data

There were six river gage stations along the Republican River Basin from Colorado to McCook. Click on the marker to see a graph of the river stages from May 18 - June 3, 1935 for that location.

Blue GreenPurpleMaroonYellow

How does this flood compare to normal river flows?

Below are graphs from the river gages that show the peak streamflow for each year from times listed below the graph. The date of the peak, gage height, and stream flow are listed.  Click on each graph to enlarge.


Arikaree River At Haigler, NE

Republican River At Benkelman, NE

South Fork Republican River Near Benkelman, NE

 Arikaree River near Haigler, NE

1932-08-27 to 2008-07-18

Peaked on May 31, 1935

Gage height = 11.20 feet

Stream flow = 50,000 cfs

 Republican River at Benkelman, NE 

1895-07-01 to 1994-09-07

Peaked on May 31, 1935

Gage height = 13.10 feet

Stream flow = 50,000 cfs

 South Fork Republican River near Benkelman, NE

1903-08-02 to 2008-08-11

Peaked on May 31, 1935

Gage height = 10.10 feet

Stream flow = 150,00 cfs

Republican River At Culbertson, NE

Republican River At Concordia, KS

Republican River At Clay Center, KS

 Republican River near Culbertson, NE

1915-06-17 to 1950-08-09

Peaked on May 31, 1935

Gage height = 11.40 feet

Stream flow = 200,000 cfs

 Republican River at Concordia, KS

1903-05-29 to 2008-06-03

Peaked on June 2, 1935

Gage height = Not available

Stream flow = 207,000 cfs

 Republican River at Clay Center, KS

1903-05-29 to 2008-06-03

Peaked on June 3, 1935

Gage height = 25.74 feet

Stream flow = 194,000 cfs


For more information about Republican River Flood History from the USBR click here.