Pioneer settlers joked that the Platte River was too thick to drink and too thin to plow.
But sandhill cranes and their cousins, the rare whooping cranes, consider the shallow, sandy-bottomed river paradise.
Each spring, from late February through early April, a migrating squadron of cranes a half-million strong glides into the river valley.
It’s one of North America’s last and most dramatic wildlife spectacles.
You’ll find most of the yard-high birds strutting in and near river shallows between Grand Island and
North Platte in central Nebraska. However, the cranes range as far west as Lake McConaughy in the Panhandle Region.
Odds are, if you travel I-80 across Nebraska during the peak viewing season, you’ll see thousands of birds
without leaving your car. For a close-up look, serious crane-watchers rise before dawn and hide in blinds to see
the birds dance and to hear them chatter on the river’s sand islands.
Sand cranes are a popular attraction along the central Platte River Valley in spring