My 29 yr old daughter and I (59) put in at Platte River Landing and took out at Two Rivers State Recreation Area, a distance of 7.4 river miles according to Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Water Trails website. The website also claims that the Platte River moves between 3-5 mph and that this would be a 3-4 hour float. So, let's launch and find out
We launched our 17ft., flat-bottom, flat-sided canoe at Platte River Landing and I was immediately surprised & mildly disappointed to find such shallow water at this site. We walked our canoe out about 30 yards in ankle deep water to access a deep current. No big problem. We stopped shortly after putting-in on one of the Platte's many island/sand bars and planted a biodegradable flag in honor of our much-loved and much-missed relative & friend and the man who introduced to us to the joys of floating Art.
As we hugged the shoreline of a very long tree covered island we were entertained by small birds who seemed to be escorting us along our way. The birds kept flitting from the tree parallel to us to the next tree just ahead of us. So far the river is moving between 2-3 mph and there is no wind to speak of. We're finding navigation to be very easy and we're enjoying the slow pace along with the peace and quiet of the river.
Quite a distance ahead of us my daughter reported seeing "a large bird with some white" land in a tall tree along the shoreline. My daughter kept her eye on this tree for quite awhile and eventually she spotted two large Bald Eagles, perched side by side, high on a branch. We were close enough for a good view, but too far away to take a picture with the disposable camera we brought along.
We next observed a sandbar populated with large White Pelicans on the opposite side of the river. As the wind had began to pick up, and sandbars were many, we were unable to paddle as close to them as we would have liked and the distance was again beyond the capabilities of our disposable camera to attempt a picture.
While our flat-bottomed canoe was great at riding over the many shallow spots we found ourselves in it allowed the sometimes substantial headwind that developed to play havoc with us. Any type of moderately-keeled canoe, while it would have helped our boat track straight, probably would have gotten hung up on many more sand bars than we did and we got hung up quite a few times. Never had to drag it very far, but had to drag it none the less. I wish we would have had the foresight to attach a short rope to the bow & stern of the canoe. That would have made for easier dragging in shallow water rather than bending over and holding onto the boat.
While passing under the Highway 92 bridge we were greeted by a large swarm of Cliff Swallows filling the air. Be sure you look up in this area to see their many round mud nests built under the bridge.
Although we saw numerous air boats parked along the shore, we only encountered one on the water. I'm kind of thankful for that as they are so loud they detract from the otherwise peaceful nature of this river.
We took out at the Riverside Campground at Two Rivers State Recreation area where my wife was waiting to greet us. Although the beach is great there and there are no steep cliffs to negotiate, it's in excess of 100 yards to your car which feels like a lot after a five and one half hour float. This is the best location to put-in/take-out per the park staff and our own observations. The car drive between Platte River Landing And Two Rivers SRA is only 10 minutes long.
The Platte River moved between 1.5-2.5 mph for most of our day and never exceeding 4 mph. We had to zig-zag across the river often in order to find a navigable current and to avoid sometimes substantial and bothersome headwinds in the middle of the river during the last half of our day on the water. The Platte River is pretty clean although it's not clear and does carries sediment, but neither my daughter nor I felt gross at all after being in it.
I would paddle the Platte again but probably only in Spring or very early Summer when this river is usually at it's fullest.
Platte River Landing has lots of parking, nasty pit toilets, picnic tables and a concrete access ramp to the water.
Two Rivers SRA has modern restrooms & showers, a put-and-take Trout fishing lake and a concessions store. Two Rivers also has some railroad cabooses converted into cabins which are worth seeing while you're there.
As this stretch of the Platte River has no outfitters that I'm aware of, we rented a canoe, 2 paddles, and 2 PFD's thru the University of Nebraska Campus Recreation in Lincoln, which rents to the general public.
Two Rivers SRA requires a $26 annual NE Park Entry Permit, or a $5 daily entry permit.
Camping fees are additional.
Platte River Landing is free.
Platte River Landing is on the east end of the Highway 64 bridge, 4 miles west of Valley, NE.
Two Rivers State Recreation Area is west of Omaha off of Highway 92/West Center Road.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Water Trails website