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SANDHILL CRANES

The Big Bend of the Platte River in central Nebraska is one of the most important staging areas
for the spring migration of the world's largest population of sandhill cranes. Throughout history
the Platte has also been a corridor of migration for native peoples and Euroamericans. For both
cranes and humans, the river has provided water, food, and shelter in a sometimes harsh
environment.

No one knows when sandhill cranes appeared on the Nebraska landscape. Their remains have
been found in nine-million-year-old deposits in western Nebraska and in prehistoric and historic
Native American sites throughout the central plains. The journals of explorers and fur traders
such as Edwin James (1820), John Townsend (1834), Rufus Sage (1841), and John J. Audubon
(1843) mention sandhill cranes they observed while traveling up the Missouri River or along the
Platte.

Settlement of the Great Plains brought many changes to the Platte. Irrigation reduced its volume,
and its shorelines and islands became overgrown when prairie fires and floods were controlled.
Only the Big Bend region still provides prime habitat to sustain the annual migration of sandhill
cranes.

Hall County Historical Society
Nebraska State Historical Society
Platte River Trust
Nebraska Department of Roads
U.S. 34/U.S. 281 and Platte River Road, between Grand Island and Doniphan
Hall County
Marker 389

 


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http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/markers/texts/sandhill_cranes.htm
Last updated 9 June 2004

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