Teamwork among numerous area organizations and one state agency has resulted in a new outdoor destination just in time for summer.
Recently, community leaders gathered to celebrate the official grand opening of the new Loup River Water Trail in Platte County which will give people a chance to enjoy an extensive float using boats or kayaks while taking in the views the local area has to offer.
Platte County has provided a public point of entry with ample parking space for the Monroe Access Point to the Loup River. Travel south of Monroe on 370th Avenue over the Loup River Bridge and about 1/8th of a mile there is a road/turn to the east. At this point, take the turn and follow to the end of the road to where the launch site is located.
There’s a sign that indicates designated parking and provides an overview of the water trail downstream to Columbus (which is a six-to-eight-hour float) as well as an upstream Fishing Access Point at George Syas Wildlife Management Area, just south of Genoa (that’s approximately a two-to-three-hour float from the George Syas Wildlife Management Fishing Access Point to the Monroe Access Point).
The Monroe-Columbus portion is a 16-mile trek that will bring travelers past tree-covered banks, with the wide and shallow river featuring channels snaking across the sandy-bottomed riverbed, according to the official trail guide. See the map of it here.
People taking the float are encouraged to keep their eyes open for rad-tailed hawks, bald eagles, beavers, deer, various plant species and more as they make their way down the river.
The river above Genoa is diverted at times, which will affect flows. As such, people are encouraged to use kayaks when there are low water conditions as opposed to canoes.
The project was made possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of Nebraska Game and Parks, the City of Columbus, the Columbus Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Platte County, the Columbus Morning Rotary Club and Columbus Area Recreational Trails (C.A.R.T.). Former Nebraska Sen. Lee Rupp, who calls Platte County home and is an avid supporter of the outdoors, also provided his Loup River knowledge to help the effort.
“This really is a regional project. The collaboration between different entities was very important in making it successful,” City Administrator Tara Vasicek said. “It’s great when everyone collaborates.”
Vasicek and Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley were among many in attendance at an official grand-opening celebration in town in mid-May 2023 that was organized by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Commodores. Also on hand were Rupp, Chamber President Dawson Brunswick and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission District 3 Representative Ken Curry, a longtime active Columbus resident.
“We all came together and talked about how we’ve got an asset in the Loup River, so let’s make it a destination that can bring people to town and be used more by our community,” Bulkley said. “Spend a day out on the river, get out to Mother Nature and have some fun in many ways. It’s really an adventure.”
The ceremonial ribbon-cutting event was held in the back parking lot of the Ramada Hotel and River’s Edge Convention Center, which sits in close proximity to the Loup River along 33rd Avenue and serves as the access point in Columbus.
Ramada Co-Owner Scott Mueller said the hotel’s ownership group collectively decided to offer up part of the parking lot there to serve as an access point for people to use the trail. Mueller said that decision was made because owners felt it was a nice way to help support a great activity for the community and the continued development of the use of the river. There’s an entryway sign behind the hotel that details the float along the Loup River adjacent to the parking lot stalls.
Vasicek and Curry said they’re appreciative of the Ramada owners for their willingness to provide the space that gives people easy access to the river from the east side of Pawnee Park.
Curry, who said he was also representing the Boy Scouts and Rotary Club, has been involved in numerous community initiatives throughout the years. He praised the efforts of everyone in Columbus and Platte County as a whole, noting the Loup River Water Trail is just another example in a long list of collaborations between numerous local people and entities for the greater good.
“It’s just a great community thing. We just have a great community that does all kinds of stuff and isn’t afraid to pitch in, that’s what is neat,” Curry said. “It’s what our community does best: We work together to get things done.”
The city administrator said those involved believe the water trail could potentially lead to new and existing businesses being able to benefit from it by offering goods or services to the public, such as rental items. More importantly, it gives the public an additional outdoor recreational activity option that doesn’t require them to leave the area.
“We’re excited residents will have another opportunity to use this resource that’s right in town,” Vasicek said. “And (we’re all) excited about it becoming another tourist attraction.”
(ABOUT THE PHOTOS - Top: Members of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Commodores, former Nebraska Sen. Lee Rupp, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission District 3 Representative and longtime resident Ken Curry (holding scissors), Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley, City Administrator Tara Vasicek and more pose for a photo during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the Loup River Water Trail. BOTTOM: The sign at the Loup River Water Trail access point in Columbus behind the Ramada Hotel and River's Edge Convention Center. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE COLUMBUS AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE)