I have been craving a little normality. The pandemic has turned life on its head. While I understand why things have been canceled and why I must wear a mask, this doesn’t mean that I am accepting a “new normal.” I like to meet new people and do new things! This “new normal” just doesn’t suit my lifestyle.
If you want to feel like things are normal for a few hours, go tanking in Nebraska.
What is tanking? Tanking is one heck of a good time. It involves floating down one of Nebraska’s wide rivers in a feed tank. Tanks are those huge round steel tubs that you see in pastures. I grew up in a town of 5,000. The cows outnumbered humans in that region, so I have seen them.
When I learned that “tanking” was a thing in Nebraska, I knew I had to go.
We were scheduled to go tanking on the North Platte River with Dusty Trails. We met up with our ride and tank at Cody Park in North Platte (the town). By the way, this park is huge and has a carousel—that’s right, a carousel and a snack shack!
The day was a bit warm and sticky, like July often is in Nebraska. This was our tanking destination so it is where we left our truck and met our Dusty Trails representative, Brian.
While we signed a few documents, Brian explained tanking and the experience we were facing. A Colorado mom with her son and daughter were also tanking that day.
My tanking buddies were my husband, Ryan, and friend, Karen. These two had been on board with the idea for a couple of years. We were just a wee bit excited.
We arrived at Buffalo Bill State Park where the put-in is next to a campground. Carpets of little yellow flowers covered the campsites and I’d love to camp here one day.
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We got out and Brian rolled the tanks from the trailer to the water. He supplied us with life jackets and helped us pile our coolers and towels inside. Did I mention you can bring a cooler? It’s a big part of tanking.
The tanks have built-in seats and our coolers tucked nicely under them.
We got into the tank and Brian pushed us out on the water. We were tanking, but we weren’t going anywhere. The starting spot is a sort of bay area where the North Platte River slows way down, in fact, it seems to flow upstream.
It’s a good thing that they had supplied us with paddles. Karen and Ryan were responsible for getting us out of the bay and after a few spins and false starts, with a little help from campers lounging in the shallow river, we got our tank into the main channel.
The North Platte River is nothing like the rivers in Colorado or the rivers I grew up with in the Pacific Northwest. For one thing, this river is lazy, wide, and quite shallow in certain places. Even in the current, we didn’t move very fast.
Full disclosure: I am an excellent swimmer, however, I have a healthy fear of rivers. I went under while tubing the Poudre River and felt the power of water. That was terrifying, but because of the rate of our travel (slow) and the lack of rapids (smooth), I felt extremely safe on the North Platte.
On a Friday afternoon, the river was quiet. When we weren’t jabbering with one another, we were surrounded by birdsong. We saw a blue heron sail by and for a while, a pair of vultures soared in circles above us.
It was easy to hop in and out of the tank as we hit shallow sandbanks. The river was running high from a rainstorm the night before and it would have been easy to float the two miles without stopping but we stopped on purpose because it seemed like a good idea.
At one point, Ryan sat right down in the water and had a moment of nature, just him, the river and his beer.
Our tanking journey was a total of two miles on the river which takes around 1.5 to 2 hours. It mostly involves watching nature, tossing water on friends, drinking beer and relaxing. There are no cares on the North Platte, one simply floats.
When we saw the bridge over North Jeffers St. that indicated our take out spot was close, we were a little bummed. After all, for two hours it felt like summer was all around us.
After clamoring out of the tank, Brian from Dusty Trails was there to load our tank up for us. We set off for a dinner of pizza and a sunset at Pal’s Brewing. It’s nice that all the heavy lifting was done by someone else
Tanking is the ultimate summer activity involving friends, beer and water; there is nothing better. It is those three things that made me feel normal in Nebraska.
Thank you to Dusty Trails for this Nebraska experience.
Go to VisitNorthPlatte.com to plan your Nebraska adventure.