Sandhill Crane Migration on the Platte River
and nearby cornfields in south central Nebraska
- Sunrise "Liftoff" taken from a viewing blind on
the Platte River southwest of Grand Island
-- large version of this photo below
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Annual Sandhill Crane Migration - Feeding layover
Here you can see a Sandhill Crane Migration Range & Nesting Map posted on the International Crane Foundation Site which has information on many species of Cranes, including this Sandhill Crane Species Field Guide page which has detailed Info on the Sandhill Cranes including three types of their "vocalization" sounds.
Tip - For daytime viewing of the Sandhill Cranes feeding in the harvested cornfields, go about one mile south of the Alda Viewing Platform to the east-west "W. Platte River Dr." road which jogs along near the Platt River. Park your car in a good spot where there are many cranes and either stay in or right next to your car and be still. The cranes will "drift" closer to you after a while as they get used to your being there. We have had good luck in the gravel portion of the W Platte River Dr. that goes west off of Hwy 26 since it seems like there is less traffic there than on the blacktop portion of the road that goes east.
Interactive Area Map + Outdoor Crane Migaration Viewing Info
This link goes to a Google interactive map which shows the Alda Road Viewing Platform Area marked + the roads in the area SW of Grand Island, Nebraska. The map also shows the roads to the west near the Gibbon Bridge Crane Viewing Platform off of I-80 1.5 miles south on Hwy 10c near Kearney. (more on the Gibbon Bridge Viewing area + Link below.) Tip - Open above map in full window to see entire area in one printable view - use "Landscape" print orientation.
See more Information about the Sandhill Crane Migration, projected Migration Dates, Crane Viewing location Tips, Viewing Blind Info, Crane Migration Links, and a Crane Migration "Fly-in" on the Platte Video below.
Viewing and taking Photos or Videos from a enclosed Blind - or the Alda Bridge Crane Viewing Platform
A more detailed copy of the above Crane Facts Information was handed out at the "Crane Viewing Rules & Etiquette" + Viewing Tour Info meeting I attended in March of 2007 at the then named Crane Meadows Nature Center before going on one of their Sunset Sandhills Crane Viewing tours to a well located viewing blind overlooking the Platte River just east of the Alda Bridge Crane Viewing Site southwest of Grand Island. (See below for the current "open" status of the Crane Meadows Center -- Now Crane Trust Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center and their Crane Blind Viewing Tours.)
Crane Trust West Viewing Blind ln location close to North edge of river bank on the Platte River -- Aerial view. East of Alda Bridge Viewing Platform
The prior Crane Meadows Visitors Center -- then name changed to Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center -- Now Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center location is just south of the Alda I-80 Exit on Hwy 26 (Exit #305) which is SW of Grand Island, Nebraska.
The Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center is open and offering Sandhill Crane Migration Viewing Blind & Bridge Viewing Tours Overlooking Platte River
It is the former Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center and is in the same location and now operating under the name Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center. They are still offering both $25 Sandhill Crane Viewing Blind and $15 "Bridge" Sandhill Crane Viewing Tours overlooking the Platte River. (Feb 2014)
Check out their Tour + Contact Info and even book your Sandhill Crane Migration Viewing Tour on their new "Plan your Visit" web page. There is a handy listing of upcoming events with "clickable" Info at the top left on the new Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center Web Site Home page, plus a comprehensive Events Calendar page which lists both upcoming Events and also the Volunteer schedule for their various Crane Viewing Tours. They also now have a Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center Blog which features more Info on upcoming speakers and events.
Interested in being a Volunteer at the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center? Check out their "Volunteer!" page. The former Nebraska Nature and Visitor Center -- now Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center Phone number is (308) 382-1820
Also see Info on Sandhill Crane Viewing and Blind Tours + Art Show & Crane Speakers in the same area at:
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The Stuhr Museum is also hosting special Exhibits and Shows during the Spring Sandhill Crane Migration. Topic are based on the Spring Migration and the Platte River Valley. They are located at 3133 West Highway 34 in Grand Island, NE. See this link for a complete Stuhr Museum Crane Exhibits & Shows List with dates & times + contact Info. Their phone is: 308-385-5316.
Many of the pictures of Sandhill Cranes flying in over the Platte River on this page, plus the video clips used in the Sandhill Crane Migration Video below were taken from a Blind overlooking the Platte River on an evening Sandhill Crane Migration Viewing Blind Tour done in mid March of 2007.
-- Most of the Photos and Videos on this page were taken with my trusty "old" Canon Powershot SX100IS with a built in 10x power zoom Lens that has now taken over 4,000 pictures and is still working fine! (The pocket sized Canon SX230HS above with 14x zoom and GPS Photo Location Tracker will probably be my next Digital Camera!)
Tip -- When you are zoomed in at 3x or more, use a Tripod or an easy to carry Monopod to cut down on "Fuzzy Photos" from Camera shake -- Image Stabilization can only do so much when you are zoomed in!
Central Nebraska Viewing Guide Map with both Sandhill Crane Viewing Centers
This "Central Nebraska Viewing Guide" pdf map shows both the Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center and their Viewing Blind + the Rowe Sanctuary & Audubon Center and their main Viewing blind. (below) It also shows the roads running along the south edge of the Platt river and the locations of some outdoor Sandhill Crane Viewing Sites.
The Map also shows the area county roads near the Platte River between the two Crane Viewing Centers where you can watch the Sandhill Cranes feed in the cornfields from the edge of the roads -- especially the less traveled gravel ones -- in the daytime before they group together late in the day for their short fly over to the Platte River about Sunset to roost for the night.
Tip - Enlarge the .pdf map to 100% size to view + print a copy to take with you on your day trip to view the Sandhill Cranes Migration on the Platte River in Nebraska!
Tip 2 - Also enlarge and print the Google interactive map showing the roads in the area which is also shown at a Crane viewing map link above. This map shows the Alda Road Viewing Platform + the "less traveled" gravel county roads near the Platte River in the area SW of Grand Island, NE over to the viewing areas near the Rowe Sanctuary SE of Kearny, Nebraska.
Sandhill Crane "Wings over the Platte" Art Show + Crane Speaker Series at Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, Nebraska
Calendar and Info on the annual Wings Over the Platte art show at the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, NE, which will be hosting the Annual Wings Over the Platte art show and a sometimes a Crane Speaker Series. Scroll down to February and March activities.
Alda Bridge Crane Viewing Platform overlooking Platte River on Hwy 26
If you want to stand on a handicap-accessible viewing platform overlooking the river to view and take pictures of the evening fly-in spectacle here is more on the public Alda Bridge Crane Viewing Platform about two miles south of I-80 exit #305 on Hwy 26 next to the bridge over the Platte River. There is a large parking area and a small lake adjacent to the large wooden viewing platform which usually offers great views of the thousands of "noisy" cranes flying in to roost at sunset -- or off to the cornfields to feed in the early morning at sunrise.
Tip - For daytime viewing of the Sandhill Cranes feeding in the harvested cornfields, we also found many Sandhill Cranes feeding along the "Shoemaker Island Road" which runs between two channels of the Platte River just south of I-80 at the west end. The gravel road runs between Hwy 11 about a half mile south of Exit 300 off of I-80 between 2 forks of the River, east over to the Alda Road (Hwy 26). Shoemaker Island Rd ends up on the east end right next to the Alda Bridge Crane Viewing Platform parking lot. We saw many flocks of Cranes assembling in the corn fields there late in the afternoon, which then later flew over and roosted on the Platte River at about Sundown.
Sandhill Cranes flying over cornfield near Platte River during migration
Near Rowe Sanctuary, which is near the Gibbon, Nebraska exit from I-80
The Rowe Sanctuary and Audubon Center and Viewing Blinds southwest of Gibbon + the Gibbon Bridge Crane Viewing Platform
See more Crane Facts + Sandhill Crane Migration and Viewing Information, and some great pictures at the Rowe Sanctuary & lain Nicolson Audubon Center east of Kearney, Nebraska. The Facility and grounds are located southwest of Gibbon exit #285 off of I-80 on Elm Island Road just south of the Platte River and west from Hwy 10c. There is a sign marking the gravel road off of Hwy 10c west to the Rowe Sanctuary & Audubon Center.
Rowe Sanctuary & Audubon Center Viewing Blind on south edge of Platte River - Blinds have room for 26-32 Viewers - each with their own "window" to watch the Cranes.
The Rowe Sanctuary also operates several riverside viewing blinds + a special "sleep-over" 2-person Photography Blind for very serious nature photographers ($200/night + tax - 2012). Reservation are needed for this special Blind, plus the regular morning or evening Viewing Blind tours which run $25 per person + tax. The Director was kind enough to take me on a quick walk out to see this Blind and take this picture while it was still light since I got to the Rowe Sanctuary Center near closing time.
See this 2011 Rowe Sanctuary Crane Viewing and Reservation Info page or call 308-468-5282 for more Sandhill Crane and other birds Viewing Blind information and availability -- tours usually fill up fast when the Cranes are "In," so call early.
See this link for more Info on reserving the special Overnight Photography Photo Blind where two Photographers can be very close to the Migrating Cranes as they settle in to roost on the Platte River for the night and leave in the morning. Good location to take some great Sandhill Crane videos! (See our Crane video at sunset below - taken from a different blind further east overlooking the Platte.)
The Rowe Sanctuary and Audubon Center southwest of Gibbon, NE is also often in need of Volunteers for Various duties in the Gift Shop plus some other areas. Check out this Volunteer Info and Opportunities web page or call the Rowe Sanctuary - 308-468-5282 to see what help is currently needed and to offer to assist as a Volunteer at the Center. You can't find a place to "work" with a much nicer view with all of the large windows the Center has overlooking the Platte River!
You can also check out the online version of the "Crane River Chronicles" Rowe Sanctuary Audubon Center Newsletter, published periodically. Links to recent Online Newsletters plus an email link to sign up for Rowe Sanctuary Newsletters are both on the Rowe Sanctuary Newsletter page.
The Crane River Chronicles Newsletter is very well done with interesting habitat Info and Crane Facts, plus it includes a Rowe Sanctuary Center Calendar of Events and more on Volunteering plus Contact Info. You can even sign up for e-mail notifications of when a new newsletter is posted online.
Gibbon Bridge Crane Viewing Platform overlooking Platte River on Hwy 10c (Lowell Rd) east of Kearney, NE
This link goes to Info on the nearby handicap accessible Gibbon Bridge Crane Viewing Platform. This bridge is 1.5 miles south of I-80 exit 285 south of Gibbon on Hwy 10c (Lowell Rd) -- about 13 miles east of Kearney, Nebraska.
Here is a map of the Rowe Sanctuary and Gibbon Bridge Crane Viewing area on or off of Hwy 10c on edge of the Platte River. Can click and drag or zoom this Google Map. (The Rowe Sanctuary Audubon Center is on the south side of the Platt River on Elm Island Road Vs north of the River which it may look like in this map.)
See Candid User Reviews, Ratings, and Price Comparisons of 20+ Kearney Hotels and Motels at Compare prices and Ratings + read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor for Kearney, NE.
To Alda Bridge Crane Viewing Platform overlooking Platte River Picture & Info Above
Back to Crane Trust Nature Center Sandhill Crane Viewing Blind Tour Info Above
Crane watching Tips & "Etiquette"
Tip - The Guides and Staff will tell you this + it is in the printed materials, but we noticed some still did not take the warnings seriously. Take a jacket if you go on an evening Tour up to one of the Viewing Blinds or if you are watching from a Viewing deck. The temperature may quickly drop up to 20 degrees after the sun has gone down - especially if there is a breeze.
Also important - wear dark colored clothing so you won't be spotted as easily by the Cranes -- and remember to turn off your camera flash as it starts to get dark! They even recommended putting a piece of black tape over your flash in case you would forget and scare off the Cranes.
-- Which would make you VERY unpopular with your fellow Crane Viewers!!!
Do not talk or only in very soft whispers is another important etiquette rule -- unless you want to become a unwanted part of a video with sound taken by someone standing next to you taking Video clips with a "video-enabled" digital camera or a regular video camera.
You might also want to check out this interesting "Watching Sandhill Cranes" NEBRASKAland article which also includes many Crane viewing tips + some pictures.
Check out this Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Volunteer Opportunities page if you are interested in investigating the various Volunteer possibilities at the many Nebraska State Parks, Campgrounds, and Fishing areas.
This Nebraska Game and Parks "Spring Migration Guide" page has some frequently asked Crane Questions & Answers with interesting Sandhill Cranes Info + Links.
The Sandhill Crane Migration Video Clip - with Sound!
-- Thousands flying in to roost on the Platte River at Sunset
Taken from a former Crane Meadows Bird Viewing Blind overlooking the Platte River near the Alda Road Viewing Platform Site on Hwy 26. Thousands of Sandhill Cranes flying in at about Sunset from feeding in the nearby cornfields to roost overnight on the Platte river.
The interesting sounds the Cranes make gets fairly loud.
This is a series of edits from several Video Clips taken over about an hour and a half period at Sunset as the Sandhill Cranes were coming in to land and roost on the River. The wind was gusting up to 30 MPH that evening. (2 1/2 Min Video)
Click play button [>] to start video. Be sure speakers are on.
(If your browser setup will not play the video above, use this link. + also can check out some of our other Nebraska Travels video clips in the "From user" area to lower right.)
Another Sandhill Crane Migration Video of Cranes coming in to roost on the Platte River. This one is taken from a Rowe Sanctuary & Audubon Center Viewing Blind on the south edge of the Platt River close to the water. Taken at Sunset in March, 2009. (Also see new Sunset photo below)
-- To 1.39 min Sandhill Cranes Video hosted at YouTube.
Sandhill Crane Video Facts:
The annual Spring Sand hill Crane Migration through Nebraska will see about 500,000 Cranes stop over sometime between late February and mid April on the Platte River southwest of Grand Island Nebraska and southeast of Kearney, NE. They will stay for about 3 - 4 weeks to feed in the cornfields during the day and roost in the shallow waters of the Platte River at night before heading on north to Canada, Alaska, and even Siberia.
This video is of several thousand Sand hill Crane birds flying in at about sunset from feeding in the nearby cornfields to roost on the Platte River for the night.
The unusual and hard to describe "warbling - bugling" noise you can hear in the video gets VERY loud as more and more of the Sand hill cranes fly in to take up their spots in the shallow protective waters of the Platte River southwest of Grand Island, NE.
An average Sandhill Crane has a wingspan of 5-6 feet, stands about 4.5 feet tall, and weighs about 12 pounds. They usually mate for life when they are between 3 and 6 years old after a lengthy courtship that includes some very elaborate and unusual "dances."
Video was taken from a high blind overlooking the river when wind was blowing 25-30 MPH - which you can sometimes hear.
See this link for the seasonal Rowe Sanctuary "Crane Cam" located near the Rowe Sanctuary and Audubon Center south of Gibbon and east of Kearney, NE. Live streaming Video of the Sandhill Crane Migration at a popular Crane overnight bird "roosting spot" on the Platte River provided by the Rowe Sanctuary and National Geographic Magazine. The Live Video has sound. (You may have to install a Adobe Flash "plug-in" to watch depending on your Browser set-up -- Also, the Crane Cam is only active when the cranes are in the area, so you may have to watch past highlights or another Wildlife Cam.) Note that the best Viewing times are usually around Sunrise at 6 AM - 7:30 AM CST and around Sunset at 6 PM - 7:30 PM CST.
This link is to a very interesting series of Video clips - "Kids and Cranes: What Cranes Do" which includes a Video of baby cranes being born and their early days, plus links to other videos of several aspects of the Sandhill Cranes behavior including their lifetime Mates and Family, unique "Voice," and unusual "Dancing" mating behavior.
Colorful Sunset over the small lake next to Alda Road Sandhills Crane Viewing
Platform overlooking the Platte River - SW of Grand Island, NE
(See full size version + links to High Resolution Sunsets at our Sunset Photos Gallery)
Flocks of Migrating Sandhill Cranes against a red-orange Nebraska Sunset
from a Rowe Sanctuary Viewing Blind on the south edge
of the Platte River close to the water southeast of Kearney, NE
(See full size version + links to High Resolution Sunset Photos at our Sunset Photos Gallery)
Sandhill Cranes Group "Liftoff" at Sunrise from roosting overnight on the
Platte River -- taken from a Crane Trust Nature Center
Viewing Blind on the north edge of the Platte River
- Photo given to us by a former director of the Crane Trust Nature
Viewing Center as thanks for our links above to the
Crane Trust Center and Viewing Blinds southwest of Grand Island, Nebraska
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Back to Info on Sandhill Crane Viewing and Blind Tours + Art Show & Crane Speakers above
Back to the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center Sandhill Crane Migration Viewing Blind and Bridge Viewing Tour Info and Links above
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To top of this page - Sandhill Crane Migration - Pictures, Viewing Tips, Maps, & Video - On Platte River between Grand Island and Kearney, NE - Home of the Nebraska "Wings Over The Platte Spring Migration" for the Sand Hill Cranes and many other birds. -- AKA: SandhillCraneMigration.com - forwards to this page.