Tanking in Nebraska – A Fun Float Trip on the River

If you’re looking for a unique experience on the water, you’ll definitely want to try tanking in Nebraska.

I first learned about “tanking” during a visit to Omaha several years ago and I immediately added a tanking adventure to my list to try because it was such an unusual way to float down the river.

After you try tanking for the first time, you’ll understand why it’s one of the popular summer pastimes in Nebraska.

Tanking is also one of the outdoor activities that’s pretty unique to Nebraska because it has so many calm rivers and tanking outfitters to choose from.

tanking on the North Platte River in Nebraska

Thanks again to Turner PR and Visit Nebraska for hosting my visit. All opinions are my own. This article may contain affiliate links.

tanking on the North Platte River in Nebraska

What is Tanking?

Tanking is where you float inside a cattle tank down the river with a group of friends. Why?…because you can!

Most tanking outfitters use benches for guests to sit on instead of lawn chairs for a more comfortable ride.

Tanking is a new way (for most people) to experience floating down the river that is easier than kayaking or canoeing. You basically sit back and enjoy the ride and let the river current do most of the work.

You’re provided with a paddle/ oar to help steer when you’re too close to the bank and to help navigate parts of the river that have a shallow waterway with sandy bottoms.

The origin story of tanking goes back to a local rancher who decided to try something unconventional in the water but I haven’t found anyone online who claims to be credited as “the first.”

tanking in Nebraska with Dusty Trails

How Many People Does a Tank Hold?

Most tanks can hold between 4 to 6 people and are commonly around 8 feet in diameter. Tanks have benches for participants with the added bonus of having room for a cooler.

Our group rode with 3 people in each tank which gave us plenty of room to spread out.

tanking on North Platte River in Nebraska

How Does a Tank Float on the Water?

The livestock tanks are able to float in a few inches of water because of their flat bottoms.

When you first look at the tank it’s pretty wild to think that it will float on the river with people inside.

It makes perfect sense once you see it out on the water and realize the even distribution helps it float in just a few inches of water.

Nebraska has miles of rivers with shallow water throughout the state which makes it a great place for tanking.

group tanking in Nebraska with Dusty Trails

How Long Does a Tank Floating Trip Last?

Most tank floating trips last anywhere between 1.5 – 6 hours depending on your start and stopping points on the river.

You may want to opt for the four-hour trip as a happy medium if you prefer to be out on the shallow waterway for an extended time but don’t want to commit to a six to eight-hour float trip.

During your float trip, you may see sandhill cranes and other local wildlife. The experience on the water is really scenic and peaceful.

tanking on North Platte River in Nebraska

When is the Tank Float Trip Season in Nebraska?

Most tanking trips are available from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

You’ll want to check with each individual tanking outfitter for their start time for the float trip, days of operation, and available times/ tanks for the season in advance.

Most outfitters require a reservation and I would recommend booking farther in advance for large groups and family reunions, especially for holiday floats.

*There are some tanking outfitters that provide birding bus tours in April along the river to view the sandhill cranes.

North Platte River in Nebraska

Does Tanking Make You Feel Dizzy?

I don’t think tanking will make you feel dizzy unless you’re intentionally paddling in a circle.

The river float trips are really laid back and the livestock water tank is a bit like a slow-motion tilt-o-whirl. I don’t enjoy those types of amusement rides anymore and I didn’t have any motion sickness issues during our float trip.

The tanking experience is a lot of fun and provides an incredible floating sensation.

I think that it also helps that you’re always able to see land during your time on the water. When in doubt use Dramamine before you go or wear a motion sickness bracelet.

tanking on the North Platte River in Nebraska

A Tanking Adventure With Dusty Trails

2617 N Buffalo Bill Ave, North Platte, NE (Nebraska Game & Parks Buffalo Bill’s Scouts Rest Ranch)

My first tanking trip was with Dusty Trails on the North Platte River in Western Nebraska.

Their livestock water tanks came in two different sizes: a seven-foot tank and an eight-foot tank. When the river is higher, the tank can fit more people, and fewer people can fit when the water level is lower.

bus for Dusty Trails

Does Dustry Trails Provide a Shuttle?

Dusty Trails provides shuttle bus services that transport you from the parking lot to the river and back.

There is a bathroom nearby at Dusty Trails if you want to go before boarding the bus. Once you leave the parking area at Dusty Trails there may not be restrooms available.

tanking in Nebraska with Dusty Trails

How Do You Get In the Tank?

You step into the tank from the riverbank. Staff brought the tanks down by the water and assisted us as we climbed in.

The biggest challenge may be raising your leg over the side of the tank to climb in and out. Once you’re in the tank you’re good to go.

Life jackets were provided for us to keep in the tank, but we weren’t required to wear them while we were floating in the tank. Your group may prefer to sit on your life jackets if you want to have cushy seats.

tanking on North Platte River in Nebraska

Is Tanking Safe?

Yes, you’ll have a life jacket if you need it. The livestock/ horse tank is very sturdy and doesn’t leak water.

Your paddle will also help you steer clear of any obstacles in the water. It can be a good arm workout if you want it to be but you might feel it the next morning.

The water levels stay pretty consistent on the Middle Loup and Dismal Rivers because of the Ogallala Aquifer, a formation of rock and earth that’s beneath the surface that can store and transport water.

tanking on North Platte River in Nebraska

If you do bounce off a tree in the water or the side of the riverbank it’s not the end of the world.

My only tip is to brace yourself if you know you’re going to bump against something in the water or get stuck on shallow ground.

Also, make sure that everyone doesn’t go to one side of the tank because you could tip.

tanking on the North Platte River in Nebraska

How Long Does the Tanking Float Trip Take on the North Platte River?

The float trip can take 1.5 hours to 2 hours depending on the water levels of the river.

The paddles come in handy especially if you get stuck on a sand bar or close to the weedy banks.

tanking together on North Platte River in Nebraska

Our two groups decided that we wanted to stay connected for our float trip. Staff connected both of our tanks with a rope between two fasteners that slid along the edge of the tank during our ride.

It can be an interesting dynamic if you’re trying to avoid the shallow, etc. when you’re connected with another tank. It’s definitely a lot of laughs as everyone tries to get the hang of it.

tanking on North Platte River in Nebraska

What Should You Wear for Your Tanking Experience?

I would recommend wearing a swimsuit underneath your shorts and a tank top if it’s warm. You may also want to wear a hat and sunglasses on a hot sunny day.

I wore water sandals with straps but I was told that it’s best to go barefoot if you need to get out into the water and want to keep both of your shoes.

tanking in Nebraska

What Should You Bring When You Go Tanking?

These items can make your tanking adventure more comfortable for your next time on the water.

If you plan on tanking next year in the spring, you’ll definitely want warmer gear with several more layers.

friends tanking on the North Platte River in Nebraska

Where Can You Try Tanking in Nebraska?

You can go on tank float trips with the following outfitters in Nebraska:

  • Broken Arrow Wilderness – 1025 P322 Rd., Fullerton, NE – (Cedar River)
  • Calamus Outfitters LLC – 83720 Valleyview Ave., Burwell, NE – (Calamus River basin in north-central Nebraska)
  • Crazy Rayz Tanking– 82228 499th Ave, Spalding, NE – (Cedar River)
  • Dusty Trails – 2617 N Buffalo Bill Ave, North Platte, NE  (North Platte River)
  • Get Tanked – 82379 Ericson Scotia Ave Ericson, NE – (Upper Cedar River) They have picnic tables in their tanks
  • Sandhill River Trips -608 Court St. Thedford, NE – (Middle Loup River in the Nebraska Sandhills)
  • Tank N’ Tube River Rides –  4647 N 230th St, Elkhorn, NE (at Rawhide Creek Ranch) (Elkhorn River Valley)
tanking on North Platte River in Nebraska

Which Rivers Are Popular for Tanking in Nebraska?

You have several Nebraska river options to choose from for a tanking trip, some of which are on the Sandhills Scenic Byway.

  • Cedar River
  • Calamus River
  • North Platter River
  • Middle Loup River
  • Elkhorn River
  • Niobrara River
tanking on North Platte River in Nebraska

Annual Polar Bear Tank Race

If you want to try tanking in colder weather, there is a polar bear tank race that’s become an annual event in Mullen, Nebraska where participants race to the finish line.

kayak rentals with Dusty Trails

Additional Canoe, Tube, or Kayak Rentals

If you prefer another option on the river there are plenty of companies that also offer canoe/kayak rentals and tubing trips.

tanking on North Platte River in Nebraska

Looking For Accommodations For a Tanking Trip?

Sandhills Motel – 119 S Hyde, Atkinson, NE

Desert Dome at Omaha Zoo

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