Tips and Tricks for Your Canoe Camping Adventure in Nebraska

Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Tips and Tricks for Your Canoe Camping Adventure in Nebraska

Spring is here and the snow is melting. For some of us, that means it’s time to break out our camping gear and head into the great outdoors. For others, it means we just need to switch out our winter gear for our summer gear! Regardless of if you’re a seasonal camper or a year-round enthusiast, the water’s warming up and that means it’s also time to break out the canoe. If you’re a seasoned canoeing champion or just beginning, follow these tips to make sure you get the best of both worlds on your next canoe camping river vacation in Nebraska.

Choose the Right Equipment
There are many places that will let you rent a canoe for the afternoon. Before you invest your money into a canoe that might not be the best fit for you, try one out. If you’re going to become serious about canoeing, you have to be sure you have the right one. What feels sturdy and comfortable one day, might not feel the same the next. Learn about the different types of boat designs. Knowing the difference between designs will help you make the best decision available. The same advice should be noted for paddles. Not every paddle and canoe are the same. Some are different lengths and are meant to traverse different types of waters. Most salesman will have a good knowledge about canoes and be able to help you out. Try out a variety of canoes to see which one is right for you. If you plan on going canoe camping, you’re going to want a comfortable canoe for your river vacation.

Understand the Terrain
Do some research before you randomly pick a spot to go canoe camping. Ask one some of the local state rangers or guides at your campsite about what to expect on the river you’ll be traversing. The knowledge that you can get from these people about the terrain you’re about to explore will be priceless for your river vacation. Regardless of how much canoeing experience you have, make sure you always have the proper safety equipment. Always wear a life jacket, and make sure that your life jacket fits properly. If you plan on going canoeing alone, make sure you let someone know where you’re going and when you intend on getting back.

Be Prepared For Everything
Part of the excitement of canoe camping is not knowing what you’ll find. Make sure you’re prepared for the good and the occasional unfortunate accident for your river vacation. Make sure your canoe is equipped with a whistle to warn other boats of your presence. In fact, carrying a whistle in your canoe is required by law in some states. Make sure that each canoe has a sponge and a hand bailer to help keep things dry in the boat. When you make camp every night, unload the canoe in the camp and turn it upside down to dry it out. Rope and bungee cords can be used to secure everything in the boat. Don’t take things with you that you won’t mind losing. Nobody wants to see their $200 sunglasses sink to the bottom of the river. In addition, keep things like keys and monkey in a waterproof container. Clothing should be kept in dry bags. Make sure your food is kept in coolers with locking lids. Organize your belongings into cooking, sleeping, cleaning and hygiene categories for easy access. Finally, make sure you have a good first aid kit in a waterproof container securely strapped inside the canoe. This first aid kit should contain basic medical supplies, a spare flashlight, waterproof matches, and spare cell phone.

Canoe camping is a great hobby and one that truly makes you feel like you’re away from it all. With so many places to explore, canoe camping is such a great way to experience the seclusion of the campsite and the isolation of nature. Be sure to check us out. We offer canoeing trips and camping sites for all of your river vacation needs.

The Courtship ritual of the Sharptail Grouse and Prairie Chickens

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on The Courtship ritual of the Sharptail Grouse and Prairie Chickens

Each year on the Sandhills of Nebraska, thousands of bird watchers and tourists are treated the grassland dance – the courtship ritual of the Sharptail Grouse and Prairie Chickens.

The courtship ritual is a charged display of gobbling, hooting, dancing, strutting, inflating air sacs; it has been called, amazing, stunning, an “unforgettable display in nature” and covered by media from the east coast to the west.

The annual prairie chicken mating dance isn’t reserved for dedicated bird watchers. Starting as early as February and running through March, thousands of birders and tourists flock to the Sandhills to see the mating dance unfold in front of them. Drawn by the sheer energy of the event and the amazing spectacle of nature, visitors go out of their way to get a firsthand look of one of nature’s “unforgettable displays.”

The prairie chicken mating dance takes place on an area called a lek where male birds stake their ground, intimidate other males and attract the hens. The dancing, booming, strutting is designed to gain the attention of the females and send the signal to the other males to move on. Food stomping, erect tail feathers, inflating neck sacs, it’s a ritual developed over time to guarantee the survival of the species.

Birders and tourists are fortunate the grassland dance takes place in a central, and very accessible location. While the area is monitored during the grassland dance to keep viewers from disrupting the activity, the local economy has developed and tours and lodging are widely available.

Bird watching, and especially at natural wonders like the spring grassland dance, is becoming something of a national pastime. Today, there are more than 50 million people in the United States who identify themselves as birders. And why not? It’s a simple hobby to get involved in – get a decent field guide and a set of binoculars – but an impossible hobby to master. Even an avid birder with resources and time will only see a fraction of the 10,000 species of birds on the earth in any given year.

The grassland dance, for avid birders, tourists and people new to the birding world, is a “must see” event that takes place in an area uniquely accommodating to the Sharptail Grouse and Prairie Chickens.

The Sandhills of Nebraska are only about 20,000 square miles of grassland but millions of birds migrate through the area traveling the North Central Flyway. The North Central Flyway stretches through the middle of the country from North Dakota to Texas and is one of the four major flyways in the United States. Each flyway stretches from north to south offering migratory species the food, water, shelter and habitable land needed for a specie’s winter feeding and summer breeding.

2015 Polar Bear Tank Race

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on 2015 Polar Bear Tank Race

Get your team together and join us for the 8th Annual Polar Bear Tank Race on March 6-7, 2015. The 8th Annual Polar Bear Tank Race is being held to create awareness of the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, and to allow people to participate in the unique experience of Tanking on the Middle Loup River in the winter… and as a fundraiser for the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.

This unique event encourages teams to dress up and be creative. A weekend of fun is planned, and registration of your team includes the following:

• One racing tank, plus a life jacket and paddle for each participant
• One Polar Bear Tank Race t-shirt to each participant
• 2 nights’ accommodations (double occupancy) on March 6-7 in Thedford or Mullen
• Welcome Reception and Soup Cook-Off
• Breakfast before the race
• Lunch following the Race
• Polar Bear Tank Race Awards Banquet – Prime Rib Dinner
• Team trophies for the top three men’s and women’s teams
• Four person team minimum

All tank decorating must take place while racing down the River.

Don’t delay, as registration is limited. Get your team together, come up with your own unique team name, and get tanking!
For more details, visit

Canoeing for beginners

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Canoeing for beginners

Canoeing can be a fun way to get in touch with nature, and an excellent way to explore a calm river. This quiet and calming activity is a great way to get an effective workout or a method for fishing. If you have never been canoeing, but are interested in learning, follow these guidelines and tips to learn how to canoe efficiently and have fun while maintaining a high level of safety.

Boarding the Canoe

When getting into your canoe, there are a few tips to follow to make sure that the boat doesn’t tip. Bring the canoe up to the shore and place it so that it is perpendicular to the shoreline. When getting into the boat, enter from the bow or stern; do not enter from the side of the boat, as this will make it unbalanced and more likely to tip. If there are two people getting into your boat, get in one at a time. Wait until the first person as gotten settled and seated before allowing another person to enter the boat.

Steering the Canoe

The person that is seated on the stern (back) of the boat will be the one primarily responsible for steering it. The easiest way to steer a canoe for beginners to learn is by using a technique referred to as a “sweep.” This is a backward stroke that will turn the canoe. A sweep on the right side will turn it to the right, and a sweep on the left side will turn it to the left. The stronger the sweep, the more sharp the turn will be.

Switching Sides

When canoeing, you will need to paddle on both sides to keep the canoe moving forward and in a straight path. Paddle between 8 and 12 times on one side before switching to the other side. Any less will cause you move more slowly and less efficiently.

Paddle in unison

If there are two paddlers in your canoe, it is important to sync up your strokes and to paddle on opposite sides. If you paddle on the same side of the boat, it will turn the opposite direction, eventually just going in a circle, and will not move forward. Paddling on opposite sides of the boat at the same time will keep it moving forward. Even when each paddler maintains his or her stroke on the opposite side of the boat, it is important to sync up the strokes.

Docking the Canoe

As you are preparing to head back to shore, you should follow a few tips to make sure that you land the canoe without harming the boat or your passengers. Once the boat approaches the shore, the passenger on the bow (front) of the boat should put his or her paddle onto the beach to brace the impact. The passengers should then adjust the canoe so that is perpendicular to the shoreline before attempting to step out of the canoe.

Canoeing is a fun outdoor activity for people of all ages. It doesn’t require much skill or expertise to enjoy a paddle around a lake or calm river. Following a few guidelines and suggestions will make this sport easy to learn and one you will enjoy whenever you get out to the water. These tips will get you well on your way to successfully navigating your canoe.

Tips for Traveling With Pets

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Tips for Traveling With Pets

Bringing your dog along for the family road trip is a great option instead of going through the troubles of trying to find a dog sitter. In order to make your trip fun and hassle-free, there are a few things to keep in mind when traveling with pets. Don’t worry; we will give you some great tips on how to turn your road trip into a successful and enjoyable experience for both your family and your dog.

Getting There

Protect your pet in your vehicle by using a vehicle pet harness or a pet seat belt. In case you have to make a sudden stop or are involved in an accident, your dog won’t be a deadly projectile to other passengers. A dog that weighs 25 lbs becomes 1,000 lbs in a 40 mph crash – so be safe and buckle up your buddy. Never tie the dog up with a leash in the car, since it could choke or cause serious injury to your dog’s neck in event of a sudden stop or accident.

Sleeping Arrangements

Your dog should sleep inside your tent, vehicle, or stay with you in a pet friendly hotel room in order to avoid dangers such as cold weather and wildlife. A travel pet bed is a good investment so your dog can kick back and relax comfortably after a long day of fun.


Safety comes first when you travel with pets. Pack a pet first-aid kit that includes any medication your dog requires, bandages, antiseptic cream, tape, and tweezers. Also save the numbers for the vet, pet hospitals, and the National Animal Poison Control Center hotline (888-426-4435) on your cell phone. Make sure you keep your dog on a leash where it is required, and also attach a travel tag with your contact information on your pet’s collar. You should always have the means of controlling your pet when you travel. Be courteous of other travelers and the trails you visit by following the campground leash regulations.


Pack the appropriate amount of food and treats for your dog. Portable and collapsible water bowls are perfect for spending time in the outdoors and also for traveling. Some pet backpacks can even carry their own water supply!

Other Equipment

Some important items to pack are blankets, chewy toys, grooming supplies, and extra towels. Protective dog shoes are great if you are hiking in rough terrain or want to protect your furry friend’s paws from ice clumps.

No matter where your final destination, be sure to pack appropriately for your dog if he will be one of your traveling companions.

Traveling with teenagers

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Traveling with teenagers

Traveling with teenagers is quite different than travel with young children. There are some basic different needs of older children that you should consider when traveling in order to keep this often temperamental age group happy while on vacation.

Don’t Plan Early Mornings

Teenagers are notorious for staying up late and sleeping in. Even if you are an early riser, allow time for your teenagers to rise slowly. Plan on late breakfasts, and not officially rolling out for the day until after 10:00 am.

Allow Them Space

If you are staying at a hotel, it’s a good idea to reserve a family suite which may have two connecting rooms, or reserving a room next door for them. This will allow everyone space to unwind away from each other and give teens the independence that they naturally crave.

Pack Light

Teens may have the tendency to pack much more than what is needed if given no boundaries. Solve this issue by giving them their own luggage or bag and allowing them to pack it themselves. By supplying general guidelines for them, they may surprise you with their effective packing skills.

Bring a Friend

Teens rely heavily on their peers. Being away from their friends, even on a vacation, can evoke a sour mood. If it is feasible, allow one of their friends to come along.

Stay Connected

Teens of today see the internet as an indispensible tool; they have no recollection of existence without it. Allow them to stay connected with friends by choosing places to stay that offer wi-fi for their devices, or have a business center with public computer access. Not to say that being disconnected at times during your trip is a bad thing, but allowing your teen to reconnect when it’s available will make them feel more comfortable.

Plan Activities they Like

Sightseeing can be fun for adults, however, many teens will find it boring and much eye rolling will ensue. Plan some interactive activities such as swimming, cycling, and interactive museums. Let them use some of their technical savvy prior to the trip to do some research and find places they would like to see or visit. Plan on sampling some local culture by dining at local hot spots that will earn bonus points with your teen if that spot has been featured on tv or online.

Keep a Relaxed Pace

Perhaps the most important tip is to keep a relaxed pace and an open mind. If something piques your teen’s interest along the way, go with the flow and check it out. Allowing them to have some control over what you see and do will boost their confidence, and allow them to feel as more of an adult, rather than a child always being told what to do.

Taking care of your camping tent

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Taking care of your camping tent

Camping in a tent can be one of life’s rewarding experiences. Not many activities this day in age can bring one so close to nature, and allow individuals to rely on their skills and knowledge of the outdoors. There is nothing like being lulled into a dreamy sleep by the smell of fresh air and the sound of crickets chirping by a babbling brook. It is important to take proper care of your tent before and after your excursions, so that it can last through many nights in nature.Camping

When you set up your tent, it is a good idea to tuck the edges of your ground cloth under the bottom sides. If it rains, this will keep water from pooling around and (even worse) underneath your tent when it drips off of the rainfly. Trying to sleep in a puddle is not fun for anyone, not to mention trying to dry out your gear in wet conditions.

No tent stakes? No problem. It does not take much wind to send a camping tent airborne, so you will want to take precautions. You can use stuff sacks filled with rocks to anchor the guylines. This will ensure your tent will remain where you set it up if you leave camp for any amount of time.

Shoes and boots should be removed before entering the tent. Pebbles and debris stick to rubber soles and will fall off inside the tent. Have a plastic bag handy to put shoes in to protect them from the weather and curious critters.

If you always end up with a camping tent full of mosquitoes, try this little trick: face your tent door into the breeze. Mosquitoes will try to get out of wind by hanging on to the opposite side of the tent. This way, when you go in and out they will not follow you through the door.

Always try to pack your tent when it is dry to prevent mildew. If you must put it away wet, take it out when you get home and allow it to air dry. If you forget and do end up with mildew, fill your bathtub with warm water and a few cap-fulls of mildew remover made specifically for tents. Do not use Lysol, as this will kill the mildew but could damage the waterproof effectiveness of the tent. Next, mix 1 cup of salt with 1 cup of concentrated lemon juice. Add one gallon of hot water and scrub the mildewed areas. Make sure the tent is completely dry before storing it.

If your tent has shock corded poles, be sure to disassemble from the center, outward. This releases tension of the pole evenly and will lengthen the life of the elastic cord inside the tube.

While you may be tempted to neatly fold and pack your camping tent in the stuff sack each time, it is actually more beneficial to fold it differently, or even to literally just crumble it up into the sack. If the fabric is repeatedly folded in the same area, the creases will lose their waterproof coating.

Using these simple tent tips for camping and it will keep your tent clean, functional, and ready for an outdoor adventure.

Camping in the fall

Posted by on Sep 2, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Camping in the fall

The dog days of summer are giving way to cool, sunny days and crisp, clear nights. Soon to be gone for the year are the hot temperatures and extended hours of daylight. We welcome autumn with its splendid colors and rustling leaves.

While many people associate camping with summer, and would not dream of a fall camping adventure, there are many reasons to hold off on putting away camping supplies for a few more weeks. The autumn season is the perfect time to cuddle up in a sleeping bag and tell spooky stories around a campfire.

Mild temperatures abound, meaning less insects buzzing around your campsite. Children have gone back to school, promising less traffic from highways to rivers. Many parks have reduced their camping fees for their ‘shoulder season,’ which makes this an economical time to head outdoors.

Campgrounds themselves are not as busy during this time, ensuring plenty of spots to choose from, as well as less noise once you arrive.

Here are some other things to keep in mind as you consider a fall camping trip:

Longer Nights.

With the sun making its daily exit a few minutes earlier each day, you will want to be sure to plan for the early darkness. Make sure you have at least one long-lasting LED lantern or flashlight. If you plan on having a campfire, be sure to have plenty of wood on hand, as you will burn through if you are illuminating your campsite by way of fire. Also, if you are cooking on your campfire or camp stove, heating and cooking meals will take longer than in the summer. Use heat to its maximum efficiency by trapping heat into food using aluminum foil, or by keeping pots and pans covered with lids.

Stay warm.

Summer heat can warm a tent very quickly. Fall brings cooler temperatures that welcome sweatshirts, jeans and jackets. Hiking boots with cozy socks replace the sandals of summertime. Instead of spending the days waist deep in the lake, hiking during the day and spending a long evening by the warm campfire take precedence.

While the welcome cool temperatures of the day, remember that the nights can become quite a bit cooler. Be sure to pack and use a temperature appropriate sleeping bag. Much of your body heat escapes through your head, so it is a good idea to take a stocking hat and wear it to bed. A foam pad underneath your sleeping bag also provides a good layer of warmth between your body and the cool ground.

Where to go?

The Sandhills of Nebraska offer many opportunities for canoeing, bird watching, fishing, and even stock tanking down the Middle Loup River.

If you are looking for a warmer place to camp, keep in mind that temperatures are cooler near the water, so you might want to stay away from rivers, lakes, and streams. On the other hand, fall can be an especially good time for fishing, so anglers may prefer to remain near the water.

Preparing for weather.

It is crucial to stay dry in cooler temperatures. Pack plenty of water resistant gear, including a rain suit. Be sure to check the weather forecast prior to your trip, and even if there is no rain in the forecast, have a plan and be prepared just in case. In some higher elevations, snow can fall quite early, including the fall season. Be sure to have an evacuation plan ready if you would need to leave prior to your original departure plan.

Camping in the fall holds many exciting and memorable adventures. It offers many extraordinary camping opportunities and gives one the chance to flex their outdoor muscles. Don’t miss the chance to see the brilliant display that Mother Nature has in store for the Sandhills and beyond during this fall camping season!

Camping with small children

Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Camping with small children

In the current days of video games, iPads and internet, many kids do not get the experience of camping in the outdoors without these coveted luxuries. Plan your family camping vacation in the Sandhills and leave technology behind. Get back to basics and consider camping in a tent or even renting a camper or RV. The Sandhills of Nebraska offer spectacular views and lots of activities for all ages. Here are some tips on planning your vacation with kids to get the most out of your experience.

• Plan the camping trip together – let the kids be involved and make decisions. This will keep them excited and build anticipation for the trip.
o Decide on places to go – consider interests, outdoor experience and children’s ages. Do a bit of research and make a list with photos for the kids to rank by ‘must do’ and ‘if we have time.’
o Choose activities such as swimming, horseback riding and hiking.
o Plan and shop for your meals. This will save you time and money.
o Prepare and pack the equipment and supplies.
• Try a backyard campout before you go for the first time. This will help prepare the kids for what to expect.
o Teach the kids how to set up a tent.
o Try some outdoor cooking – there are many recipes that you can make over a campfire other than hotdogs and marshmallows!
o Experience a night outdoors in sleeping bags.
o Plan a few activities such as storytelling or board games.
o Search the sky for constellations and shooting stars.
o Listen to the many night sounds and try to identify them.
• Try to experience outdoor activities with your kids
o Teach them about safety and to respect nature.
o Teach outdoor skills and outdoor ethics. Things such as ‘take out what you take in’ are simple, yet important, concepts.
o Make camp chores fun. Collect firewood, hammer tent stakes, help set up chairs – kids will enjoy feeling helpful.
o Take a small day hike in the woods at a local park. Take time to point out different flowers, leaves and wildlife along the way.
o Visit a nature center or observatory.
o Read books about camping and the outdoors.
o Go on a flashlight walk after dark.

Once you have had some camping ‘practice,’ when the time comes to take your trip, do not underestimate what you will need. Be sure to bring extra clothing and shoes – the kids will get wet and extremely dirty. Also pack some warm clothing – air off of the river can be chilly, especially after the sun goes down. Dressing in layers is the best option, as the daytime temperatures can be quite warm.

Also remember to bring bug spray and sunscreen. Most of the day you will probably be outdoors and will want protection from the hot sun and pesky bugs. It is also a good idea to bring a swimsuit. Even if you are not planning on swimming, if you happen upon a creek or stream, it will save you a wet outfit. Also pack a small first aid kit for any accidents, bumps and bruises. Rain gear should be included, as well as activities for indoors in case of uncooperative weather.

When going camping with small children for the first time, take your time getting there. Make lots of stops on the way there and on the way home. Do not plan on staying more than two or three nights, and be sure to bring comforts from home such as special toys, blankets and pillows. Bring lots of snacks and plenty of drinks to stay hydrated.

Most of all, enjoy the time and make memories that will last your children a lifetime. Take plenty of photos, and even consider letting the kids use a disposable camera that they can snap whatever they would like during the trip. These can be incorporated into a scrapbook or photo album that everyone will enjoy for years to come.

Make the Most of this Summer at the Sandhills Motel

Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Make the Most of this Summer at the Sandhills Motel

Summer has now approached so why not make as many memories as possible with friends and family. Take a vacation from your everyday life by doing things you wouldn’t normally do. A perfect place to go to is Sandhills Motel in Mullen, Nebraska. Your stay at Sandhills Motel will be an unforgettable trip to mark off your bucket list.

A great way to start out your vacation with your friends and family is to take in the view of Mullen, Nebraska. Make sure to have your camera always available to snap the breath taking views. You will want to show everyone back home what they been missing.

Sandhills Motel has many activities for the whole crew to enjoy during vacation. Start by taking a canoe trip down Dismal River or Middle Loup River. We recommend that you start with Middle Loup River for a fun and relaxing ride. As for Dismal River, this ride will be a little faster pace and more for the advance canoeists. For beginners at canoeing, we encourage you to try Dismal River but just make sure to practice first by taking a trip or two down Middle Loup River to know your limits.

Sandhills Motel offers unique attractions that can only be seen at very few places, one is bird watching. As the birds travel the North American Central Flyaway every year, this offers the chance to see the grassland dance. The grassland dance is a courtship ritual between Sharptail Grouse and Prairie Chickens. This mating tradition is a must see that can last between two to four hours depending on the activity. Groups of 16 people take a bus used as a blind to the areas of this courtship rituals to give you a close view to take pictures and learn all about these incredible birds. You won’t want to miss this “must see” attraction.

A Sandhills Motel trip is not complete without a stock tanking. Yes you heard right, floating down the river in a Stock Tank. Holding six to eight people, this is an activity the whole family can sit back, relax, and enjoy. You can also participate in the annual race down the river in a Stock Tank, all you need to do is get a team together and register at but hurry space is limited. Decorate, dress up as a team, do whatever it takes to win the race. This exciting race is a fundraiser to raise awareness to the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. An award banquet will be held at the end of the race.

After a long day in the sun, go back to a calm, relaxing, and quite place to take a nap or head right to bed for the night. You will be sure to get a good night sleep at Sandhills Motel. Picnic areas and swimming are also available for grilling out and hanging out with friends and family.