Dismal River Trips

The Dismal River is a true Sandhills river, with its source and mouth in the grass-cloaked hills that cover more than 20,000 square miles in central Nebraska. Compared to others in its region, the Dismal River makes for short wilderness river adventures, flowing only 80 miles until its confluence with the Middle Loup River at Dunning. What it lacks in length, it makes up for in providing adventurous Nebraska canoe trips; the Dismal River is the state’s wildest, youngest, and most undeveloped river. It’s setting in the natural beauty of the Nebraska Sandhills makes for wild and adventurous river vacations.

Relaxing on the beautiful Dismal River

Relaxing on the beautiful Dismal River

The Dismal is spring-fed, flowing constantly throughout the year. The largest spring is about 20-feet wide; and although it’s actually more than 100-feet deep, it appears to be as shallow as an ankle-deep pool. Stepping into the spring, you’ll discover a floating sandy layer that appears to be the bottom, even though the actual bottom is 100 feet below. Yes, it’s deep; however, the spring pushes you up, forcing you to remain near the surface. Because the Dismal River is spring-fed, it runs fast and deep in several places, all while constantly winding through the beautiful Sandhills and laying out an idyllic path for those seeking thrilling Nebraska canoe trips.

Dismal River

Dismal River

The combination of deceptive current speed, dramatic turns, and areas of heavy dead-fall make for wilderness river adventures that can be very challenging for inexperienced riders. Portages are also necessary to consider, as the lower river trip has several obstacles to navigate. Therefore, the Dismal is not recommended for novices who come to the area for a relaxing river vacation. Beginners are encouraged to test their skills on the Middle Loup before taking on the Dismal. Dismal canoeists should be experienced and prepared to pull over and assess obstacles before forging ahead.

Glidden Canoe Rental offers one-day and two-day wilderness river adventures for experienced canoeists interested in riding the Dismal River. Trips begin at the Highway 97 bridge. The one-day trip averages six hours and ends at a bridge 13 miles south of Seneca. The two-day trip includes an additional four- to seven-hour trip, depending on the takeout point you choose. The two takeout points include Potters Campground or Highway 83, south of Thedford.

Canoeing in the Sandhills, Nebraska

Canoeing in the Sandhills, Nebraska

The Dismal River offers spectacular views for thrilling Nebraska canoe trips. While being surrounded by the Sandhills, you will have the opportunity to see elk, whitetail and mule deer, muskrats, beavers, grouse, waterfowl, and wild turkeys. Occasional mountain lion tracks and rattlesnakes have also been seen in the area. Take a ride on the Dismal River if you’re looking for an exciting and scenic wilderness river adventure.


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