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Try Tanking: A Fun Float Trip!

Want something fun, relaxing and unique to do with your family or friends this spring or summer?

Well, well. I have an idea for you.

How about floating a slow-moving, meandering, scenic Nebraska river downstream in a round, buoyant livestock watering tank?

Tank floating on the picturesque Middle Loup River near Mullen, NE. Photo courtesy of Glidden Canoe Rental/The Sandhills Motel.

I know what you’re thinking, trust me, I do. But, let me tell you that this is one of the most amusing, interesting and memorable small group outdoor experiences you can have in Nebraska!

Tanking down the Elkhorn River past Blackshirts Bend near Waterloo, NE. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Originating in the Sandhills area of Nebraska, this one-of-kind, river-based float trip activity using a piece of common ranching equipment is referred to as tanking.

The activity, heralded by many as good down-home, country entertainment or tubing on steroids, has become wildly popular with folks of all ages on rivers such as the Middle Loup, Cedar, Calamus, Elkhorn, North Platte, Niobrara and Republican. Though water levels vary and can sometimes affect trips, what these Nebraska rivers have in common is that they are generally tranquil, relatively shallow waterways with calm currents and mainly sandy bottoms, optimum for a lazy day of drifting.

Tanking on the beautiful Cedar River near Fullerton, NE. Photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Wilderness Camp.

But, what does a tank look like? Capable of holding 3-6 people, each tank has been fabricated or customized by a private outfitter. Normally, you will find chairs, benches or small-sized picnic tables that have been provided in the 7-10 foot in-diameter hard plastic or galvanized metal tanks.

Tank on the Elkhorn River near Waterloo, NE. Photo courtesy of Tank Down the Elkhorn outfitter.

If you’re wondering, the stock tank outfitters on rivers in Nebraska generally offer 2-6 hour trips to include shuttle service, trash bags, as well as paddles or poles, life jackets, and other required boating safety equipment. Some offer two-day floats. The outfitters can also arrange for overnight accommodations and let you know of nearby restaurants or cafes for meals.

The selling points of taking a livestock tank river float trip are:

– The tanks are unique to each outfitter. By and large, they are fairly roomy and pretty easy to get in and out of. You really don’t even have to get your feet wet entering or leaving one unless your the person who has to jump out to perhaps nudge the tank off of a sandbar or pull the tank to shore for a break or at the end of the trip.

– There is an added bonus of room on board for a cooler.

– Tanking is more of a dry water adventure compared to inner tubing or rafting.

– The tanks are sturdy and quite stable. They are very difficult to tip over and virtually unsinkable. Interestingly, with their flat bottoms, they are capable of floating in just a several inches of water.

–  Tanking is less taxing than canoeing or kayaking as you merely flow with the current. Able to float in shallow water, the tanks roll off of obstacles such as logs. You don’t have to paddle or pole too much, except at times to push off of downed trees, sandbars or weedy banks.

– Tanking promotes bonding. You and your small group are arranged in a circle, more or less, so there is a greater possibility for interaction plus no one has to stare at the back of someone’s head for hours as you would in a canoe or tandem kayak.

– A person floating in a stock tank gets the whole panoramic view or perspective of a river. You’re not facing downstream the majority of the time as you would be in a canoe, kayak or raft. A tank float trip is sort of like taking a leisurely Tilt-O-Whirl carnival ride. This is due to its shape and the fact that it bobs up and down in the water and rotates like a super slow-motion Tilt-O-Whirl.

– The tanks also travel much more slowly than canoes and kayaks do. This allows you more time to shoot better quality photos of wildlife, scenery and other tank floaters.

– In a tank, there are easy opportunities to eat lunch and snacks, drink cool refreshments, play cards and board games, etc.

–  Where possible and landowner permission has been granted, stopping along the way is no problem, especially for the kids wearing their life jackets to hop out and wade or splash each other, or to try to catch grasshoppers or frogs or even to wet a fishing line for channel catfish.

– Just imagine hearing your your family and friends laughing hysterically with enjoyment, a variety of birds calling around you and the gurgling current of a lazy river as you float down it at nature’s pace.

Sold on going tanking?

You can get tank outfitter contact information here.

Details about Nebraska water trails can be obtained at this link.

Have a terrific time “tanking” (I know you will)!

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Communications and Marketing Specialist and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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