What is Tanking in Nebraska?

I had no intention of writing about this trip, but the citizens of HeidiTown wanted a tanking update, so here it is.

The biggest question I used to field regarding HeidiTown is “Where should I go on my <insert special occasion here>?” Not now. Since 2020, the most asked question is, “What is tanking?”

What is Tanking in Nebraska HeidiTown.com Photo by Caleb Mayfield
Photo by my friend Caleb, used with permission.

I wrote about it way back in 2020, and I’ve been tanking in North Platte, Nebraska, every summer since that first trip. Each year, the tanking group gets a little bigger. This year, we had ten tankers.

So, I am here to answer the tanking question. Tanking has nothing to do with military tanks or those big industrial holding tanks. These are feed tanks—if you grew up or live in a small town, you know what they are—circular metal tanks made for watering and feeding livestock. And guess what? They float. And while I don’t know the history, I am going to make it up (it’s probably fairly accurate).

Once upon a time, an agricultural feed tank slid down a muddy bank into a Nebraskan canal. The farmer—let’s call her Sally—came looking for it, and saw it floating away. This gave her an idea. Once she retrieved the feed tank, Sally invited some friends to join her, grabbed a cooler of beer, slid the tank back down the embankment, threw in the cooler, jumped in, and “sailed” merrily away. Thusly, tanking was born!

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Photo from the 2020 trip.

This is basically, exactly how it is done, and all you need besides a tank are friends and a cooler of beer (maybe several).

But first, pick a weekend. We do two nights in North Platte, Nebraska, exactly four hours northeast of where most of us live in Colorado.

Timing is important because if you wait until late summer, the river is going to be too low to tank. However, there is now a new option: tanking a canal.

We always rent tanks at Dusty Trails in North Platte, Nebraska. This year, the week before we were booked to go tanking I got a call from Dusty. He informed me that the North Platte was too low to tank and the South Platte was too high (and dangerous) to tank. If we still wanted to go, we’d tank on a canal.

As a Coloradan, let me tell you what came to my mind. A canal runs through the south end of my neighborhood, and while sunflowers grow along its edges, and baby ducks and goslings paddle its waters in the spring, it’s mostly a shallow waterway full of goose poop and carp.

We look forward to this trip all year, so, I was worried to tell my friends that we were now tanking a canal. Thankfully, Dusty texted me a couple of photos.

Photo from Dusty Trails
This is a photo he texted to me. These aren’t tankers, but this IS the canal.

This was not a Colorado canal. In fact, this looked exactly like a deep, wide river surrounded by foliage, and cows, as it turns out. It was not exactly like tanking the Platte, Dusty informed me, because we weren’t going to be able to touch the bottom. However, he assured me that some people absolutely loved it and the scenery was grand. Okay, grand Nebraska scenery. I was sold, sort of.

I sent the photos to my friends—we had a group chat through Facebook. Tanking the canal was approved and the trip was saved. Phew.

We went July 14-16, 2023. Five motel rooms had been booked downtown. I am not telling you where we stay because quite frankly, it is kind of small and I don’t want competition. However, you may end up there anyway because it’s within walking distance of everything except the breweries. Plus, North Platte is a small-ish town of about 20,000.

What is Tanking in Nebraska HeidiTown downtown North Platte

On our first night in North Platte, Nebraska, we ended up at Pals Brewing, about five minutes out of town. We’d been there before and it is an ideal stop with friends—pizza, craft beer, a ginormous field for frisbee and such, picnic tables, and impeccable service. Oh, get the baked squeaky cheese. Just do it. Unless you are lactose intolerant and for that I am truly sorry.

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The next morning we fueled up for a day on the water at The Espresso Shop and bought some last-minute needs at the liquor store next to our motel. I swear I didn’t choose this motel because of the liquor store next door.

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I definitely recommend this spot for breakfast in North Platte, Nebraska.

We arrived at Dusty Trails equipped with coolers, towels, sunscreen, full water bottles, hot dogs, brats, and a barbecue grill. That’s right, my husband, who has a furniture business and is handy with tools, built us a tank platform for our friends’ grill. We tank fancy.

After loading into a school bus with excited other tankers we were off. The put-in spot is about 20 minutes from North Platte.

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The tanks from Dusty Trails have two sizes and are equipped with a “seat” around the inside that’s perfect for pushing coolers under.

What is Tanking in Nebraska HeidiTown our grill set up
Our grill set up.

I do recommend getting a big innertube to pull behind the tank. We had one for both tanks. They are a highly entertaining addition and actually make it much easier to get on and off the tank in the canal for short people like me. I did miss being able to touch the bottom and we’ll try to tank the river next year, but as a backup plan, it gets a thumbs up from our happy group of tankers.

At this point, I am just going to tell you that tanking in Nebraska is pretty awesome. We had a truly magnificent time this year and even made some fellow tanker friends. We had two tanks and enjoyed our approximately four-hour float enormously. In fact, I wish we could go back and do it again this weekend.

What is Tanking in Nebraska HeidiTown.com group shot
Our tanking in Nebraska 2023 group shot.

By the way, tanking is perfectly safe for kids. In fact, a family with little boys was racing us down the canal for the first hour.

What you need to go tanking in North Platte, Nebraska (not necessarily in order of importance):

A tank – Dusty Trails

Innertube/floaty thing (get them from Dusty Trails or bring your own)

Cooler full of beer or whatever beverages you prefer

Sunscreen (because you’re an adult)


Water Bottle full of water (also because you’re an adult)

What you’ll want to go tanking in North Platte, Nebraska:

Grill platform

Small grill

Hot Dogs




Questions? Leave them in the comment section. After four years, I’m kind of a professional tanker now.

Extra photos for your pleasure:

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Getting ready!
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Heading out!
What is Tanking in Nebraska HeidiTown 100
At the beginning.

And that’s all you get, folks. Happy tanking!

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