For the 50+ Traveler

The Midwest is full of new adventures. Did you know that tanking in Nebraska is a thing? People of all ages pile into a cattle tank and float down a river while taking in the views along the shorelines. North Platte happens to be home to the North Platte River, and great tanking adventures begin here.

What Is Tanking?

If you’re not a Nebraskan, you are probably asking, "What is tanking?" Tanking is floating down a river in a cattle tank, a vessel typically used to supply drinking water to livestock or horses. They are made of steel and are watertight, which makes them ideal for floating down a river. A Nebraska adventure in a cattle tank makes perfect sense. Why? According to the Nebraska Beef Council, more than 6 million cattle live in Nebraska. Fun fact: There are more cattle than people in the state.

Tanking in Nebraska is a thing, and it's an experience of a lifetime. Here are some tips that will make your first tanking trip memorable for all the right reasons.

View from the writer's tank in North Platte, Nebraska.
Sara Broers

Know Your Limitations Before You Hop In The Tank

There are a few things that you need to know before you begin your tanking adventure. If you have a fear of water, tanking is probably not for you. Participants will most likely get wet and may have to step into the river bed. Tanking in Nebraska is a workout. Unless you’re tanking with others who can assume this responsibility, your upper body should be strong enough to continually run a paddle if necessary. Once you have determined that you like water, have adequate upper body strength, and are after some outdoor fun in Nebraska, it's time to find a tanking outfitter.

How To Dress While Tanking

A common question people ask about tanking is "What should I wear?" I would recommend a swimsuit and cover-up for women and a swimsuit with a t-shirt for men (unless you’re tanking in the spring to see sandhill cranes -- more on that below). Tanking is an outdoor activity, surrounded by water. Be sure to bring sunscreen and bug spray along to protect yourself. Water shoes are also a must, as you may find yourself tromping through the river at times.

You’ll also want a cooler filled with your beverages of choice and a lot of water. The hot Nebraska sun will warrant several beverages and water for keeping hydrated. I would also highly recommend a hat and sunglasses.

Friends Tank Together

The tanks themselves are big and can hold five or six people comfortably. The folks from the outfitter will help you place the tank in the water. They will also let you know where to place it at the end of your tanking adventure. There are no poofy pillows or cushy seats. If you want a cushy seat or a comfy chair, bring it along. My husband and I hopped in our tank after we had a quick introduction to what tanking was. There were two of us on board, but there was room for as many as three or four more. The water was flowing adequately, but it didn’t feel too fast.

Landscape of Nebraska from the writer's tank.
Sara Broers

You’ll Get To Know Nebraska’s Beauty While Tanking

Tanking is all about the experience and finding a new way to explore Nebraska. Canoes and kayaks are traditional ways to explore the rivers, but tanks bring an entirely different experience to the state’s waterways. Most people think of Nebraska as being flat and boring. In fact, Nebraska is anything but flat. When you drive from east to west, you will notice a change in the terrain. According to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System’s website, there are 79,000 miles of river in the state, 197 miles of which are designated as wild and scenic.

Nebraska is a great place to experience the river. You can hop in a boat, canoe, kayak, or tank to experience some of those miles. I don't know about you, but a tank sure sounded more fun than any of the other choices!

Our tank trip took place on a hot summer day. The water was warm and the blue skies were vast as we floated down the river. The Nebraska landscape is nature at its finest. The shoreline is filled with flowering brush and trees that seem to tell a story. Now and then we listened to the quiet of the river. Birds flew by. Our surroundings felt almost surreal. We asked ourselves, "Why have we not done this before?"

Of course, it was at this point that our tank decided to hit the sandy bottom. Floating down a Nebraska river can be challenging in places as sand bars are common. We hopped out of our tank and pushed it back into the waterway. At one point we actually found ourselves going in a circle on the North Platte River, which was an experience in itself!

The writer and her husband tanking in Nebraska.
Sara Broers

Tanking In Nebraska Is Your Experience And Nobody Else’s

The beauty of tanking in Nebraska is that you determine your own experience. If you want the quiet of the river, you can enjoy the river sounds. If music is your thing, you will want to bring your smartphone and a portable speaker. Most importantly, protect your smartphone with a dry bag! The beauty along the river will provide ample photo opportunities. I took my smartphone and was able to use it to capture the beauty of Nebraska up close and personal.

Tanking in Nebraska is not for everyone. But, if you are adventurous and looking for something that others are not doing, this is it! The ultimate river experience is what you will find when you hop in a cattle tank and push off a Nebraska bank into the current. You will have bragging rights for years to come, as chances are small that your friends have tanked in Nebraska. I personally do not know of many other outdoor activities that offer so much opportunity for seeing nature and experiencing adventure in a single day that others are not talking about. When I mention tanking in Nebraska, most roll their eyes and ask What? That’s my cue to let the whole world know what tanking in Nebraska is all about.

Several Rivers In Nebraska Offer Tanking Experiences

There are numerous places in Nebraska to experience tanking. Mullen, Nebraska, is situated in the Nebraska Sandhills and located on the Sandhills Scenic Byway. Here you can tank and observe sandhill cranes. The Middle Loup River offers a leisurely tanking experience, and April is a popular time for tanking to view the sandhill cranes. It's often chilly, so dress appropriately (it's not uncommon to see folks in tanks dressed in coveralls, scarves, gloves, and hats) and pack your binoculars. If you have never had a reason to wear coveralls, tanking in Nebraska in spring will give you the opportunity!

Check Tanking Off Your Bucket List

My bucket list keeps growing, even as I check things off of my list. I challenge you to look at your bucket list today. If you do not have tanking in Nebraska on it, add it! An adventure like floating down a river in a cattle tank is sure to provide hours of laughter, fun memories, and even some time to reflect. There's something to be said about a tank, an oar, and the shoreline of a Nebraska river. What are you waiting for? Plan your tanking experience today and let the good people of Nebraska roll out the red carpet to welcome you.

Nebraska bound? These eight fun and weird Nebraska festivals are worth checking out. If you can’t get enough of the water, consider exploring Florida’s glowing waters in a see-through kayak the next time you’re in the Sunshine State.