The immediate surface soil of three-quarters of the area of Antelope county is a dark clay loam, the remaining one quarter varying from a rich, sandy loam to a worthless yellow sand. The bottomlands are alluvium and modified loess. The uplands are composed of loess and drift. The sandy portions are either drift or modified loess, but the drift is limited when compared with the loess, and makes very fertile land.
The soil of the hillsides average about eighteen inches in depth, and, on the bottom lands, from two and a half to three feet, though the subsoil, after exposure to frosts and atmospheric agencies, becomes pulverized and productive. There are exceptional places at the foot of steep hills, where the accumulation of vegetable mold has reached a depth of eight or ten feet.
Grasses. Prominent among the natural resources of the county must be mentioned its grasses. Of these there is practically an unlimited supply. The most valuable variety is “blue joint,” which grows everywhere except on the first bottoms of the Elkhorn. Just as soon as prairie fires are prevented in the fall, and the grass allowed to stand through the winter, protecting the roots from exposure by preventing the soil from being blown away, a thick turf is formed; excellent pasturage and heavy crops of nutritious hay result. Besides this, there are small quantities of red top and buffalo grass, and, on the bottoms, three or four varieties of coarse slough grass. There is also a species of wild oats growing on the uplands, which affords excellent pasturage early in the spring, and which is second only in value to the blue joint.
The timber found native in this county is principally cottonwood, ash and oak. Cottonwood is most abundant along the Elkhorn, and oak along the smaller streams. Other kinds of timber are the box elder, basswood, red and white elm and willow. There is plenty of wood in the western part of the county for fuel, though the eastern part is not so well supplied. There is but little brick clay in the county, and the brick made of it is not of the first quality, except that found near Neligh, which is of excellent quality. Wild fruits abound in favorable seasons, the principal kinds being plums, grapes and gooseberries.
The main stream of the county is the Elkhorn, one of the most beautiful streams in the State. It enters the county from the west, thirteen miles from the northwest corner, and, after pursuing a tortuous course toward the southeast, leaves it ten miles from the southeast corner. Its average width is here about seventy-five feet; depth, eighteen inches; current, rapid; water, clear and pure; bottom, sandy; fall, about six feet to the mile. From the north it has several tributaries, among them Reynolds, Belmer, Elwood and Hopkins Creeks. From the south seven creeks flow into it, Cedar Creek and Clear Water being the principal ones. The former derived its name from the existence of considerable quantities of cedar timber up its valley, from two to three miles above where Oakdale is located. Both streams have quite rapid currents and considerable volume, and furnish excellent milling facilities.
Springs of hard water are numerous in the creek valleys, and plenty of good well water is obtained by digging or boring on the bottom lands to a depth of from ten to twenty five feet, and on the uplands from sixty to one hundred and fifty feet, according to the elevation above the water level in the valleys.