Float Me a River; Dozens Drift Down the North Platte on Sunday
Back in 1890, the little town of Bessemer along the North Platte River lost an election to become the county seat of Natrona County.
Instead, Casper 12 miles to the northeast, won after the powers that be determined there was no way voters in Bessemer cast 667 votes -- to Casper's 296 -- because "'the fraud is so glaringly evident,'" according to the Wyoming Derrick newspaper. Historian Annette Hein noted that there may not have even been that many people in Natrona County at the time.
The town and election fraud faded into history.
Bessemer Bend now boasts something more fun.
Sunday, its boat ramp to the river offered the launching point for dozens of fun seekers prepping for a four-hour float trip down the river to Morad Park.
Shane Vincent, along with his Army-recruiter buddy Conner Holden, promoted the float on social media in the past few days, he said.
"I like to do a big river float each year, at least one," Vincent said. "I just kind of put together a Facebook event so that everyone would know what time, and it just kind of blew up from there."
In a tribute to the power of social media, some people from Oregon saw his post and added a float trip to their itinerary while they were staying in Casper, he added.
Of the roughly 50 float-folks at the parking lot by the boat ramp, Vincent knew only about 10 in his group, he said. "We'll probably get to know a lot of them on the river."
Safety was primary for people and pets. Vincent strapped a life vest on his dog Shadow.
Nearby, people were prepping their canoes and kayaks, pumping their single-person and two-person inflatable boats, and donning life jackets and sunscreen.
Bee Bennett and Bee Nielsen -- together known as "B-squared," Nielsen said -- were filling a floating portable cooler with ice, drinks and snacks.
Glenn and Crystal St. Gelais used a small electric air pump to fill their solo floats also known as river tubes, and their portable cooler, too.
Whitney Freeman marshaled her family, friends, fiancé, people floats and cooler floats down the ramp to the launch point.
While it's fun, they also know the risks and consequences, especially when a storm blows in unexpectedly, Freeman said.
That happened two years ago. Her group paddled to shore. But the storm rattled her son Tyce to where he was afraid to go on the river last year, she said.
Tyce said he's mostly recovered from the experience and wants to get friendly with the water again.
"We do this as a family," Whitney Freeman said."It's a tradition."