Sandhill Crane Tours 2020
Make this the year you experience the Sandhill Crane migration!
Each spring the most incredible migration event in the world passes through the North Platte, Nebraska area. More than 200,000 Sandhill Cranes will spend about six weeks in the North Platte River valley fortifying themselves for the nesting period to come. While they are here, they will engage in beautiful courtship and pair-bonding behaviors.
Courting cranes are magnificent as they stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air in a graceful and energetic dance. Parents will dance with their chicks for the entire first year of their lives. Juvenile Sandhill Cranes will use the complex dance steps they learned to select a mate when they are two to five years old. They will mate for life, though continue to show their affection to their mates each spring with their dancing prowess. The energies and, dare we say emotions, released during the dancing rituals are essential to successful breeding.
These graceful, exuberant rituals can best be observed while the Sandhill Cranes are in the feeding and loafing grounds, which are the meadows and crop fields within five miles from the river.
North Platte River Crane Roost
There is nothing quite like watching the sun rise or set in a blind on the river next to a roost with thousands of Sandhill Cranes. They will leave their feeding and loafing grounds in the late afternoon, then as sunset nears, will make their way to the safety of the river to spend the night. As the sun sets their loud raucous calls will quiet to cooing and murmuring, with the occasional loud honk.
A roost is never completely quiet. In the morning as you arrive at the blind in the full dark, the cooing and murmuring of the Cranes will have continued unabated from the night before. As the dawn approaches, the noise and activity on the roost will rise to a crescendo. A few small groups will take wing until finally the air will reverberate with thousands of flapping wings as the entire roost rises to greet the day.
Dusty Trails has partnered with a landowner who has long held the presence of a large roost on his section of the North Platte river as a closely guarded secret. Open to the public for the first time in 2020, this roost will offer visitors a bucket-list experience.
For more details on the viewing blind experience and to reserve your spot, click here: Eventbrite.com
Sandhill Crane Tours
To aid you in your experience of the Sandhill Crane migration, Dusty Trails LLC, your outdoor specialists in North Platte has developed tours during the most active time of the day for the Sandhill Crane courtship behaviors. These tours are scheduled from 2:15pm until approximately 5:00pm.
The Sandhill Crane Tours are scheduled Saturday and Sunday March 14 and 15, and then daily March 20 – through April 5.
Saturday and Sunday tours will depart from Pals Brewing Company, 4520 S Buffalo Bill Ave. Monday through Friday tours will depart from the Visitor Center at 101 Halligan Drive in North Platte.
All tours include a round trip through the North Platte River valley between North Platte and Hershey. The tour will linger along the rural roads wherever there are large groups of Sandhill Cranes so that you can observe, video and photograph as much as you would like. While on the tour, you will be treated to information about the Sandhill Cranes, their migration and behaviors you may observe in the fields.
Adult tour prices are $35.00 per person; Children ages 5 – 10 are half price ($17.50). Children 4 and under are free. Choose your date and purchase tickets online at Eventbrite.com.
Prairie Chicken Dance Tours
In the spring the hearts of the Nebraska Greater Prairie Chickens turn toward love. To successfully attract a female mate, the male Prairie Chickens must impress them with their dancing prowess. Males will gather in large numbers on dancing grounds knowns as leks. They will cackle, jump and stomp their feet, sometimes scuffling with a rival. Then they will scrunch down and inflate their bright orange neck sacks and emit an eerie booming sound.
The ladies on the other hand will observe the shenanigans circumspectly, examining the prospects with a critical eye. However, if they see something they like, they may come forward for a brief, flurried assignation.
Dusty Trails will host an excursion to a large and busy Prairie Chicken lek located south of Sutherland. The tours will depart from the North Platte Visitor’s Bureau, 101 Halligan Drive. Tours during the month of March will depart at 5:30am. Tours during the month of April will depart at 5:00am, due to the earlier sunrise. Tours will arrive back in North Platte between 9:00am and 10:00am.
There will be two small (1-2 person) photographer blinds available at the lek which will provide a ground-level view of the action. These must be purchased in addition to a regular tour ticket. The cost for a photographer blind is $20.00.
Adult tour prices are $55.00 per person; Children ages 5 – 10 are half price ($27.50). This tour is not recommended for children four and under. Choose your date and purchase tickets online at Eventbrite.com.
Moonlight Horseback Excursion
An incredible dawn horseback excursion to the Prairie Chicken Lek is scheduled for three days surrounding the full moon in April, April 6, 7 and 8. No previous horseback experience necessary!
The tour departs at 3:00am from the North Platte Visitors Bureau at 101 Halligan Drive for the Barner Ranch north of Wallace, a drive of approximately an hour. From there you will mount up and enjoy an incredible moonlight horseback ride about five miles to the lek where you will dismount and make your way to the blind.
You will be treated to the beautiful night sky as the Milky Way stretches from horizon to horizon, dimmed only by the brilliance of the full moon. Light pollution is minimal, with only faint glows on the horizon marking far away towns. As dawn approaches, the prairie awakens. Crickets will be heard chirping in the grass, Meadowlarks will begin their full throated calls. Families of Coyotes will begin to sing, teaching the pups born earlier in the spring to greet the coming day. And then a low thrumming will begin reverberating through the air. The earliest risers among the Greater Prairie Chickens are getting warmed up for their performances.
Dusty Trails LLC is North Platte’s premiere outdoor outfitter. Each year hundreds of visitors enjoy trail rides through the Buffalo Bill State Recreation Area hosted by Dusty Trails. Girl Scouts from across the state have enjoyed Dusty Trails Trail Rides in areas such as the Halsey National Forest and along Nebraska’s Cowboy Trail. Dusty Barner’s expertise, the professionalism of his wranglers, and his experienced, gentle horses will make even the most timid rider feel comfortable.
Coffee, juice and breakfast pastries will be served on the bus. Bottled water will be provided at the lek. On the excursion you’ll build up an appetite, so you’ll be hosted to a hearty breakfast at the Barner Ranch following your adventure. The tour will be back in North Platte at about noon.
Tour prices are $250.00 per person for everyone 12 and over. This tour is not appropriate for children age 11 and younger. Choose your dates and book online at Eventbrite.com.