How about a relaxing float down river in a livestock tank? Go with Dan Kaercher as he learns to "steer" the tank on the picturesque Nishnabotna River in southwest Iowa.
Hosted by Dan Kaercher, Iowa's Simple Pleasures features Iowa travel destinations, restaurants, events, parks, recreation and more. Produced by Iowa Public Television, the series highlights fun things for Iowans to do, see and taste, right here at home.
Kaercher: I've heard of going up a lazy river by the Old Mill Stream, but do you think the writer of that jazz tune ever thought of floating on the river in a livestock tank? I've really enjoyed myself over the years, tubing, canoeing, and kayaking down Iowa rivers, but I've never tanked down an Iowa river. Brian and Wendy Leaders are the owners of Rubber Duck Outfitters. Brian, how did tanking come to be?
Leaders: Tanking in Iowa just didn't exist until this year. But I have a lot of good friends that have tanked in Nebraska, and I saw the pictures that they brought back. I heard the stories that they had and I thought this is something that real we've really got to add to our outfitter business.
Kaercher: Tell me, how do people react to tanking, and what kind of tanks do you use?
Leaders: Well, we use a big blue poly tank. It's an 8-foot wide poly tank. I built benches it in. We have people comment anywhere from no way in heck would you ever get me in one of these to this is something that I've got to try. Once we start getting the people off the river, most of the comments are “that was really cool, it wasn't what I expected, and we're absolutely going to do it again.”
Kaercher: Now, these are officially livestock watering tanks. Have they ever been used?
Leaders: Absolutely not. We purchased them brand new, put the benches right in them when we purchased them, and put them in the water.
Kaercher: Today we're tanking but there are other ways you can get people on the Nishnabotna, right?
Leaders: Absolutely. We offer canoes, kayaks, tubes, and tanks, so you have your choice of the four. I think people are finding it's much more safer, much more buoyant, and you can actually have a better time in them.
Kaercher: Tell me what are some special things I should be watching for.
Leaders: You know, we have a lot of wildlife. We have a lot of beavers that are on the water. We have a lot of deer, muskrats. We also have a lot of turkey that come down and get water to drink. So those are some of the things to look for. There's also some scenic areas that you can see. You can see the towns as you float by, a lot of different town water towers that you see, and just the different types of crops and trees that you see in this area.
Kaercher: So what age group this for?
Leaders: Tanking covers all age groups. We've had groups with young children, one as young as two years old. We take our children, which are six, nine, and two. We had a group a few weeks ago that were in their seventies, and they had a great time. So we pretty much core the gamut when it comes to ages.
Kaercher: What's the home base for Rubber Duck Outfitters?
Leaders: We're home based out of Bottna Bend Park out of Hancock, Iowa. We're about forty minutes from downtown Omaha and Council Bluffs. You could come out just for an afternoon. You can have a short drive out. We can float you for a couple hours, get you back home. You can camp overnight. We can also provide catered meals or boxed lunches, so we can accommodate you with the food also. Let's get started.
Leaders: Okay, let's go.
Kaercher: Thanks a lot. You can't be too safe, right? Ship ahoy! Get me to my tank. Hi, neighbors! Howdy.
Kaercher: Is this the Loess Hills around here?
Leaders: There are some loess soils in this area. The Loess Hills are about 30 miles west of here -- the true Loess Hills.
Kaercher: I noticed that there's some erosion on the banks. Now, we had a wet year so is that what comes with it?
Leaders: Yes, absolutely. When you get a high water year. We end up with erosion on the sides of the banks. You get a lot of deposits that come in. They set on the inside of the bends, and then the erosion happens on the outside. So you do have a lot of erosion in this area. Even some of the farmers’ crops end up going down the river.
Kaercher: Now, this river just got a designation, is that correct, as an Iowa --
Leaders: Iowa Water Trail.
Kaercher: What comes with this designation?
Leaders: What comes with that is access ramps, new access ramps with rock and steps down to the river at each of the city parks and county parks. It also comes with signs that you see on this bridge up ahead of us.
Leaders: Well, Dan, there is where we get out. I hope you enjoyed the trip.
Kaercher: Oh, yeah, I did. That's a new thing on my bucket list literally, a tanking trip. You guys were great. Wendy and Cindy and everybody else, Logan and Brain, we just had a great time.