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North Loup River

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General Information

The Pawnee Indians, or Wolf People as they named themselves, called the North Loup, and the other Loups, Its North Loup River Kari Kitsu, or "Plenty Potatoes Rivers," because of the abundance of wild edible tubers growing on the banks. The North Loup is part of a river system called the Loups and the basin they occupy covers nearly one-fifth of Nebraska and contains 1,800 miles of streams. The Middle Loup, South Loup, Dismal, Calamus and Cedar rivers are the other Loup (French for wolf) family members.

The North Loup once was known as Warren’s Fork after G.K. Warren who mapped the area and served in the Civil War. With the exception of the South, all have their origin in the Sandhills, a 20,000 square mile grass-stabilized dune area extending 250 miles across Nebraska and described as the largest in the world. The hills overlie the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground repository of water extending into Texas.

The North Loup is fed from ground-water from the aquifer in the form of springs, which contributes to the constant flow of water, even during the typical hot, dry Nebraska summer weather. The river above Burwell is diverted for irrigation from mid-June through August which will result in lower water levels. The optimum time to canoe the river is in spring and fall.

Section Described

Burwell to Ord -18 ½ miles.


For the first 6 1/2 miles of your trip the river is narrower and the canoeing is very good. The remainder of your trip, some 12 miles downstream to Ord, the riverbroadens and divides into several “braids” or channels which are shallower than the upper section. The challenge for the canoeist is to find the deeper (darker water) channels. Even so, some walking may be required, especially during summer months when irrigation is in full swing, rainfall is minimal, and evaporation is at the highest levels.

For the first three-fourths of a mile theriver flows over a moderately level sandstone shelf. Along this section are some low rapids which are fun and easy to negotiate. Rapids can be seen about 300 yards from Riverside Park and occur again a short time later before the sandstone ends near Kamp Kaleo, a private camp on the north side of the river. Many “locals” in canoes, and tubes, enjoy repeating the run several times. After that point the sandstone shelf turns to sand and silt loam until trip’s end in Ord.

Access Points

Your trip begins at Riverside Park in the northeast sector of Burwell. Burwell can be reached both from Nebraska 11 and 91. Nebraska 91 intersects with U.S. 281 and 183 and these intersect with I-80 to the south and I-90 to the north. The only potential access between Burwell and Ord is at the county bridge near Elyria on Highway 11. The trip ends at city-owned Anderson Island just south of the Nebraska 70 bridge on the east side. There is road access to the river’s edge from the highway.


The North Loup Valley from Burwell to Ord varies in width from 2 to over 3 miles. Down to Ord it is flanked by low, but impressive, sandhill bluffs that vary in height and up to 300 feet. These are dominated by red cedar mixed with a smattering of burr oak, green ash, and hackberry. Cotton- wood and willow grow along the river. Perennial, mixed short grasses and forbs grow on the hill slopes. Between the river and the base of the hills irrigated crop land dominates. Wildlife common to the area are coyotes, deer, beavers, racoons, eagles, blue herons, kestrels, and hawks. The river is an excellent fishery for channel catfish.

Historic Fort Hartsuff, near present- day Elyria, was constructed in 1874 to protect the settlers and the Pawnee from Sioux Indian attacks. Restored, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Call (308) 346-4715.

Services Available

Burwell has full services and several boat vendors to serve the Calamus Lake patrons. Call (308) 346-4509 for more information. West of Burwell is Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area, with full camping and boating facilities and fish hatchery. Medical clinics in Burwell can be reached at (308) 346-5544 and 5442. Ord has full services. Call (308) 728-5791 for more information. The Burwell hospital's phone number is (308) 728-3211.

Dialing 911 will reach emergency personnel in the area.
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