The first river you paddle runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in pools and eddies to remind you who you are. — Lynn Noel
Floating one of Nebraska’s various water trails in the summer is great for so many reasons!
You can do it for the adventure of going somewhere you’ve never been. You can do it to make connections and memories with people and nature. You can do it to re-trace history. You can do it to get some fresh air, Vitamin D and burn calories. You can do it to leave technology behind, relax and clear your mind!
Well, time to come clean. It’s no secret that I have a passion for and addiction to floating Nebraska water trails! In fact, I have paddled nearly all of them in my 37 years at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Whether it’s leisurely floating a kayak or canoe in an eastern Nebraska river like the Platte with co-workers,
to the challenge of paddling a remote Sandhills river such as the Dismal with buddies, I thoroughly enjoy Nebraska’s varied water trails and so should you and your group!
Nebraska truly has an array of neat rivers that offer tremendous potential for summer outdoor recreation, especially float trips. Generally, Nebraska rivers flow gently, making them ideal for family outings as well as an excellent resource for those learning to handle non-motorized watercraft. On the International Scale of River Difficulty, our rivers typically rate Class I: Easy. This is defined as moving water with riffles and small waves; few obstacles; risk to swimmer is slight; self-rescue is easy. Exceptions are the Niobrara and Snake Rivers in north-central Nebraska where, in a handful of places, there are several Class II, III and IV rapids that require portage.
Water trails for float trips have been established by us at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission on various stretches of rivers. How many have you traveled?
For specifics on each, check our website here. Please know that water levels in some of our rivers fluctuate and are a running bit higher than normal for this time of year. Click this location for water trails/river safety info and this one for Nebraska boating laws and regulations.
Another important link for you to have, is the following one listing of various outfitters who rent canoes, kayaks, inner tubes, rafts and stock tanks on our rivers here.
What’s interesting is that most of us who live here in the Cornhusker State probably have a river very nearby (see the map below). Nebraska has some 24,000 miles of rivers , streams and canals!
Keep in mind that only the water in these rivers belongs to the State of Nebraska and you are allowed to float it. However, the river beds, bars and banks are almost entirely private land and it is up to you to do your homework to get permission for picnicking, camping or fishing on that property. Most landowners along our Nebraska water trails don’t mind canoers, kayakers, etc. as long as they ask permission well in advance of their float trip, are careful with campfires, leave the property as they found it and pack out their trash! Further details about the etiquette for floating our Nebraska water trails can be obtained at this link.