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The South Platte and Republican River basins provide examples of historical channel changes on the western Great Plains. Flow regulation and diversion caused substantial channel narrowing and vegetation encroachment along larger, perennial rivers that head in the Rocky Mountains. Intensive groundwater pumping has reduced the volume and longitudinal connectivity of refuge pools along smaller intermittent or ephemeral channels that head on the plains. A case study from the Pawnee National Grassland of Colorado illustrates the dynamics of intermittent streams, as well as measures that can be taken to protect and restore refuge pools along these streams. The implications of channel change, and the need to protect and rehabilitate rivers, are less widely recognized for smaller rivers of the western Great Plains than for the larger, perennial rivers. Our objectives in this chapter are to provide a regional context for understanding changes in smaller plains rivers during the past century by reviewing the diversity of channel types and historical changes in the western Great Plains, and to briefly explore the dynamics of smaller plains rivers and the challenges to preserving these riverscapes.

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