Wildlife Photography: Sandhill Cranes

Every spring, over a million Sandhill Cranes visit the Platte River Valley in central Nebraska. I made my first trip to photograph the Sandhill Cranes in 2009. Since 2009 I have made 1 or 2 trips every year, spending up to 6 days each year photographing the cranes.

For advise on seeing cranes, go to the bottom of this gallery page.

All wildlife on this page is truly wild and free to roam as they have for thousands of years.

If you want to see the cranes for yourself, remember this old saying: "the Sandhill cranes usually arrive around Valentines Day, peak around St Patrick's Day, and are gone by tax day.".

Sandhill Cranes are on the river from Sunset until Sunrise. It is very important to not disturb the Cranes when they are on the river for the night. Spooking Cranes from the river in the dark can cause the cranes to fly in in to powerlines and other obstacles. The best places to view Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River itself, are from Rowe Sanctuary or the Crane Trust. Both places require reservations well in advance of your visit, plan ahead. There are also several public viewing platforms along the river though out the central Platte River Valley between Grand Island and Kearney.

Viewing cranes off river at Sunrise and Sunset is very easy. I would recommend finding an out of the way place on public property within a mile of the river. The Sandhill Cranes make a lot of noise that adds to the viewing so I would stay away from busy highways and the interstate. During Sunrise and Sunset the sky will be filled with tens of thousands of cranes in this area immediately adjacent to the river. Stay inside your vehicle, close to your vehicle or find other items such as a tree line to use as a makeshift blind. Sandhill Cranes are hunted in every state but Nebraska and they are easily spooked by humans.

If you find yourself looking for cranes during the day time, you will find them in the fields away from the river. By mid day, I have seen cranes over 6 miles south of the Platte River. I find the middle part of the day the hardest time to photograph the cranes, they are easily spooked and the light is uninspiring.

I highly recommend a trip out to the Platte River Valley in central Nebraska to see the Sandhill Cranes. If you go, please be respectful of the birds, respectful of the locals who live and work in the area, and respectful of the other crane views. If you visit Rowe Sanctuary or the Crane Trust, please read and follow all their rules. People travel from great distances and I have seen one bad person ruin a crane viewing trip for the entire blind.