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Dismal River, Nebraska

In November Rain
November 22-24, 2001

other trips: the first encounter | through barbed wire fences | September 2005
map | flow data | Sandhills books| GPS photo log


Sandhills sunset

Weather forecast was not really very promising for Nebraska: 50% chances of rain changing into snow. Nevertheless, we decided to spend the Thanksgiving weekend at Mullen. Before reaching Mullen we scouted Potters camp F providing an access to the Dismal River midway between the Seneca bridge and the highway 83. It required a long drive on sandy farm roads starting at highway 83 between the river and Thedford (red sign for Johnston Ranch).

It was cloudy but rather warm. Just before sunset a short glimpse of sun put some magic light on sand hills. I was lucky to shoot a few pictures. We had our Thanksgiving dinner at Mullen's Sandhills motel.
Dismal River - view from the hills

Dismal River

Next day was cloudy, cold and windy, so I decided to wear a dry suit. I launched my Seawind canoe at highway 97 at 9:00 - A. There was a dramatic change of colors since my last visit in August: a brown color was dominating the scenery. Soon, the brown tones were getting more saturated due to drizzle and rain. I saw some fresh signs of beaver activity - several trees cut down, but none directly into the river.


Afer one hour paddling I dragged the boat through narrows B and perhaps 15 minutes later stopped at a big spring at the left shore - C. Water level was about one inch higher than during summer. I hiked to the top of the nearest hills. Despite of cold wind wind and rain I managed to take a few pictures of the river valley.



Dismal River - rapids Dismal River

Dismal River

Half hour of more paddling and I reached the rapids - D. The break in rain allowed me for a short photography session. It was last time I took my camera out of the pelican case during this trip.

In addition to beaver traces I saw other wildlife: whitetail deer, a fox, ducks, several birds of pray, and a couple of very wet racoons washing something in the river.


1:00 pm Seneca camp - E. Rain was heavy without any breaks. It was getting colder and pretty windy in more exposed spots. I added extra layers under my dry suit and fuzzy rubber hood instead regular polartec cap. This setup together with neoprene gloves worked very well for paddling in cold rain. After a quick lunch I continued my trip.

There were no distinct landmarks downriver from Seneca camp. The next bridge was at Potters campground. The river was narrow, windy and with very fast current but travel through sharp meanders was rather slow. About a mile before the campground one can see a house with a tall anthena mast on the right shore, then the river was widening and slowing down. The campground is marked by sign (left shore).

I arrived to the Potters camp - F - at 4:00 pm after 7 hours of paddling including two longer stops. Connie came by car a few minutes later. The timing was perfect.

Next day was even colder with heavy rain and gusty wind. I would survive more paddling but we were concerned about conditions of ranch roads providing the only access to the river. We decided to return back to Colorado one day earlier than originally planned. About 100 miles west from Mullen we left clouds behind and had sun during the visit at Scotts Bluff National Monument and for the rest of our driving to Fort Collins.



Dismal River




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