Each spring around 600,000 Sandhill Cranes congregate on Nebraska’s Platte River in what has been hailed America’s Great Migration. For over 40 years Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary has been working to protect and improve the river and surrounding habitat for the cranes and other birds who depend on it to survive.

Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary invites nature enthusiasts, bird lovers, and photographers to witness this migration from viewing blinds strategically placed along the Platte River. Viewings are scheduled daily from March 5 through April 10, last approximately two hours, and are led by trained guides. Walking distances to the viewing blinds range from 1/4 to 1/2 mile over relatively level terrain, with a portion of the walk occurring during low light conditions (before sunrise/after sunset).

Reservations can be made by calling 308-468-5282 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday or online at reservations.rowesanctuary.org. If you would like to bring children or a member of your party has ambulatory issues, please contact us at 308-468-5282 for options.

Can’t come this year?

You can witness the spectacle via the live Crane Cam. From the beginning of March through mid–April, a camera on the Platte River provides outstanding views of Sandhill Cranes roosting by the thousands in the shallow water. The rest of the year, the camera provides views of eagles, deer, and other wildlife, as well as the ever-changing river. To bring this wild experience into your home, go to http://rowe.audubon.org/crane-cam

The best time to watch the cranes on the Crane Cam is early morning, starting from first light to well after sunrise, and from late afternoon until dark. During the day, cranes feed in local farm fields and wet meadows. They return to the river to spend the night on sandbars, secure from predators.

Also look for our ‘Crane Central’ on-line educational programs. These videos are fun and innovative way for students, teachers, and families to learn about cranes and to see them in action when they are not at the river. The programs are available to view throughout the year at http://rowe.audubon.org/programs/crane-central

Other Crane Season activities include:

Family Crane Carnival

March 12 – Saturday

10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Free Admission

Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary is hosting the tenth annual Family Crane Carnival, a one of a kind carnival for all ages with an emphasis on fun and learning. This is a great opportunity to learn about cranes and their habitat in a hands-on setting. Look for new activities, touchable exhibits, face painting, and much more. Candi Crane will also be out and about meeting and greeting young guests. Don’t forget to bring your camera and have your picture taken at the famous Sandhill Crane Photo Board!

Habitat Tours

Saturday March 26, April 2, and April 9

1:00 pm

$5.00 per person

Join our knowledgeable staff and naturalists on a wagon ride to learn about the Platte River ecosystem and Rowe Sanctuary’s management role. This program is dependent on the weather and space is limited, please call 308-468-5282 for more information or to make your reservations.

Crane Behavior Basics

Daily March 13 – April 10

4:30 pm

$5.00 per person

Want to make your crane viewing experience more enjoyable? Join us in this fun interactive class. You will be introduced to several crane behaviors easily observed in the fields and viewing blinds. You will also learn about crane biology, the Central Flyway, and Platte River conservation. Call 308-468-5282 to make reservations. This program is not suitable for children under 12 years of age.

Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival

March 17-20

Herald the arrival of tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes and millions of waterfowl migrating through central Nebraska at a festival hosted by Audubon Nebraska . Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival has been celebrating this wildlife phenomenon for 45 years! Join fellow enthusiasts to learn more about the cranes, waterfowl, and other bird species by attending concurrent sessions, visiting a crane viewing blind, and participating in one of the many field trips. Featured speakers this year include the legendary nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen; Paul Johnsgard, Ph.D., ornithologist, artist, and emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska; Brian Trusty, the executive director of Audubon Texas, and Marian Langan, the executive director of Audubon Nebraska. For more information, go to http://nebraskacranefestival.org/

Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary and the Platte River – Over Forty Years of Conservation, Education, and Celebration

Saturday, March 26

9:30 am

$5.00 per person

Doreen Pfost will discuss the work done by Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary, other organizations, and individuals to protect habitat along the Platte River and to educate the public about the river’s importance to wildlife. She will examine conservation efforts in the context of numerous proposed water development projects that threatened the river’s flows. In addition, she will talk about the process of uncovering this history and some of the research that remains to be done.

Doreen is a freelance writer and amateur naturalist. She has been a volunteer at Rowe Sanctuary and a student of the Platte River since 2005. Her Master’s thesis at the University of Nebraska-Kearney was a collection of essays based on her explorations of the Platte. She expanded that work into a recently published book, This River Beneath the Sky: A Year on the Platte (University of Nebraska Press, 2016). Now living in Wisconsin, she makes frequent visits to south-central Nebraska, and in the past four years has spent many hours researching Platte River conservation and the history of Rowe Sanctuary. Please call to make reservations.

*Throughout March and the beginning of April, look for Rowe-ving Naturalists wearing ASK ME buttons. They will be roaming the Center and out on the trails ready to answer your questions about the Platte River, Sandhill Cranes, and Rowe’s conservation efforts.


About Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary

The mission of Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary is to conserve and restore the Platte River ecosystem, focusing on cranes, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

Along one of North America’s most important bird migration routes known as the Central Flyway, the Platte River is essential habitat for the survival of many bird species. Over 80 percent of the world’s Sandhill Crane population rests and feeds here each spring for four to six weeks in preparation for their long journey north to nesting grounds. Visitors year-round will enjoy the Center, four miles of walking trails along the river, and experience the beauty of Nebraska. Located twenty miles east of Kearney, Nebraska.

Visit rowe.audubon.org or call (308) 468-5282 to learn more.

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