The Nebraska Airboaters Association’s airboating event held in Columbus over the weekend saw an estimated 165 boats on the Platte and Loup Rivers.
Randy Fetrow, member of the Nebraska Airboaters Association and involved in the Columbus Run, said the annual event brings in visitors from Florida, Oklahoma and Texas. The number of boats seen at the event averages about 150.
“I think it went great,” Fetrow said of the run which was held Saturday. “Over 150 boats, so many people, it’s unreal. Just the fact that people want to drive here from Florida and go here to Columbus -- it’s a pretty crazy thing to me.”
Fetrow said about 165 boats went as far as the Tailrace at the mouth of the canal.
Attendance was down last year, he noted, most likely due to the drastic flooding that left those who would usually participate dealing with damages left behind from the natural disaster.
According to Fetrow, visitors will enter the Platte River around Fremont or Omaha and ride down to Columbus to join the Loup River. Most often, those individuals will park their airboat under the bridge and stay at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center overnight then continue on the following day.
“We went up Sunday morning, and we counted 71 parked at Columbus, people who had stayed at the Ramada,” Fetrow noted. “A lot of folks, after Tailrace, turn around and come back because they live in Columbus or Schuyler or Fremont.”
The geography of the Platte River makes conditions ideal for airboating, Fetrow said, because of its shallow depth.
“A lot of people don’t understand how unique the Platte River is through eastern Nebraska,” Fetrow said. “People from Florida, Oklahoma and Texas come up here to do it just because it’s so unique. They really get a kick out of the Platte River up here.”
Parker Ridgeway, a Columbus resident who attended the run with friends and family, also commented on the distinctiveness of the Platte River.
“It’s kind of neat how Columbus is geographically located. I suppose you could call it a hub,” Ridgeway said. “A lot of folks can travel the whole Platte, the Loup and then hop on the Platte or vice versa.”
Ridgeway typically rides his 4-wheeler along the river but joined his friend and friend’s father, Garrett and Tim Krumland, on the airboating run this year. It was also Ridgeway’s mom and fiancé’s first time airboating.
“We were just out riding with them and it was a blast,” Ridgeway said.
Ridgeway spent the majority of the weekend at his parents’ place at Lake Oconee where he could hear others taking part in airboating.
“You could hear them sun up to sundown. There were lots of them,” he noted. “It was crazy but it was a fun time, though.”
Life-long resident Tim Krumland began airboating around 1986. He enjoys being able to observe the scenery, wildlife and the camaraderie that develops at the run.
“It was a lot of fun and we got to see a lot of friends from out of town,” Tim Krumland said, adding that his family and friends also enjoyed grilling over the weekend.
His son, Garrett, agreed.
“It’s a really great experience,” Garrett Krumland said. “You meet a lot of people.”
The majority of people who airboat assemble their own vessels using an aircraft or automotive engine and a flat-bottom boat, Fetrow said.
“Years ago, everyone built their own. Then in the 80s and 90s, a few places started springing up for building them for customers,” he said.
These days, airboats are constructed from carbon fiber or machine aluminum.
Fetrow himself has a 16-foot fiberglass airboat. The Krumlands have a 16-foot Excalibur airboat.
However people choose to go airboating, Fetrow said it’s an experience one is likely to remember.
“It’s perfect,” Fetrow said. “If you have two inches of water and you’ve got wide open spaces, they are the most fun, most relaxing, most surreal ride you’ll have in your life.”
Hannah Schrodt is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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