The Platte River in Nebraska has long been described as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” It’s a little deeper than that, but not much. So, how do you boat the Platte, as Nebraskans tend to want to throw a boat on any body of water if we can? Enter Bryson’s Air Boat Tours in Fremont.
Bryson’s offers air boat tours of a section of the river from its area, a few miles southwest of Fremont (about a 30-minute drive from Omaha). The company offers a variety of air boat ride packages, from the basic one-hour cruise to a three-hour package including a barbecue and party area. Bryson’s started from a personal favor in 2004. They took a cancer patient and her friend on a river tour in their personal boat. They told friends and doctors. More people asked for tours. Today, tour times fill up fast.
Our daughter Mallory spent a couple of weeks at home, visiting us from Seattle. I thought it’d be fun to have a family day on the river, so Lisa, the girls (eldest daughter Steph and Mal) and I signed up for the one-hour tour. Oh, did we have a good time!
We met our pilot at the river’s edge. Since we had a few minutes before launch, the girls and I played a quick game of horseshoes. I can tell I’m getting older because I love that game. My dad taught me to play. We had horseshoe pits when I was a kid. I like that my daughters enjoy playing the game.
So, when it came time to hit the water, we were ready. Our tour was almost packed. We had nine people on a boat built for 11. We boarded the boat on land. The pilot revved the engine, turned the boat around and slowly guided it into the water. Then, it was river time!
An air boat is propelled by a jet-style propeller and powered by an aircraft or automotive engine. It’s loud, so passengers wear protective headsets. They do an excellent job in reducing the noise. However, talking is out, so if you need to communicate, use hand signals.
I’ve never really realized how much beauty the Platte River offers us. It’s different when you’re on the water. The bluffs and trees create postcard scenes. The river itself looks impressive as you see it spread out before you.
The air boat seems like it’s going fast, but your sense of speed is likely off because you see the water right below you. Mind you, the pilot did at one time open the boat up so it seemed like we were super fast.
The view along the river offers a mix of nature and humans. We saw a heron fly off as we passed too close for its comfort. Herons are a lot quicker than they appear. By the time we recognized it was a heron, the bird was already in flight above the treeline.
A short distance down river, junked cars hug the shoreline. While the rusted vehicles may be a good photo, it’s pollution and not good for the environment.
I expected we’d bounced across sand bars in the river. However, the pilot actually maneuvers the boat to avoid them as much as possible. The moves create some fun times, as you feel like he’s taking sharp turns.
At one point upriver, we stopped on a large sandbar for a short time. The pilot explained that people like to park their airboats here and spend time partying with others, including playing volleyball and cooking. The area was beautiful.
We did check out a few sand bars toward the end of the tour. You could feel the boat adjust a little as it skimmed over the sand bars. It was fun.
The Platte River has a lot of dead logs and other debris floating in the water. Pilots do a great job in avoiding them. However, I thought they added to the beauty of the tour.
Before you know it, the hour is up and the Platte River tour is over. We had a great time and it was a fun way to help welcome Mallory home.
The airboat tour season runs roughly April through early October. I think a river tour during the fall colors would be amazing. We recommend checking out Bryson’s Air Boat Tours for a great outdoor experience.
For more information about Bryson’s or to check out reserving a spot on a tour, please visit www.brysonairboattours.com.