Photograph the Annual Sandhill Crane Migration

Grand Island, Nebraska, Chapman, Nebraska, United States

  • Activities:

    Photography

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Spring

Scenic
Wildlife

The annual Sandhill Crane migration is a sight and sound like none other. Each year more than 500,000 Sandhill Cranes (80% of the world's crane population!) stop to rest and refuel along the Platte River before continuing north. To witness this natural phenomenon as a wildlife and photography enthusiast is an incredible gift.

This isn't your standard hiking/camping excursion, though it is a sight and sound of nature that you'll never forget. Every year, between 12,000 and 15,000 people from around the globe travel to Nebraska to witness this extraordinary event. Even if you don't consider yourself a photographer, simply waiting in the blinds and quietly witnessing the arrival of thousands upon thousands of Sandhill Cranes is an unforgettable experience.

To register for a viewing spot, you can make an online reservation via The Nature Conservancy's Derr House Prairie at https://booknow.appointment-plus.com/11pkxc46/10. Guided viewing blind tours are set up to get you as close to the cranes as possible without disturbing them. Meet-up location is at the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center (9325 S Alda Rd, Wood River, NE 68883). Viewings are scheduled daily during March and early April, and last from about 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours led by trained guides.

MORNING TOURS:March 1-March 12 / 5:00-7:30 a.m. / $25March 13-April 3 / 6:00-8:30 a.m. / $35

EVENING TOURS:March 1-March 12 / 5:00-7:30 p.m. / $25March 13-April 3 / 6:00-8:30 p.m. / $35

Walking distances to the viewing blinds range from 1/4 to 1/2 miles from the meet-up Center, over relatively level terrain (it's Nebraska!), with a portion of the walk occurring during very low light conditions (well before sunrise & well after sunset). The viewing blinds are wooden structures with carpeted floors that hold up to 32 people. They offer shelter from wind, rain, and snow, but are not heated and will be as cold as or colder than it is outside.

Pack List

Viewing reservationPhotography gear - be sure to bring a fast-prime lens, quality zoom lens, and sturdy tripod. Know the specs of your camera in non-flash and zero-sound modesCold-weather layered clothingWaterSnacksHeadlamp

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This is a fantastic opportunity to see something rarely seen in the Midwest, a great migration. The guides were supremely friendly and personal all while sharing their knowledge with the group as a whole. In my group were about 20-25 people. While none of us were acquainted before the viewing we all car pooled together from the visitor center to the viewing site as parking is limited at the viewing site. From the viewing site it was about a 1/4 mile walk along a flat prairie grass path to the blind. The blind is about 40 feet long with a full wall of windows with camera portals facing the Platte River about 10 yards away. The guide brought several pairs of binoculars for use among the group, however I suggest bringing your own. The guide also setup a high power spotting scope for spectacular up close viewing. It was about an hour into the viewing before the first cranes landed, however it didn't take long after the first several landed for hundreds then thousands to follow. The roosted about 20 yards out into the shallow river making them approx. 30 yards from the blind. It was truly surreal to hear the sounds and see the sight of these birds and watch a great display of nature unfold. I highly recommend taking time to see and photograph this.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Emily Kent Explorer

A girl with a photo habit who loves nature a whole lot. A Minnesota native in northern California. Other loves of mine are my two little girls, my hubby, camping, hiking, surfing, singing, cycling, swimming and a good hoppy IPA. Instagram @emilyelizabeth.115

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