Latin: Antigone canadensis
Photo: Sandhill Cranes. Photo: Jocelyn Anderson.
Every March, over a million Sandhill Cranes converge on the Platte River Valley in central Nebraska to fuel up before continuing north to their nesting grounds. Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary is at the heart of this magnificent crane staging area.
Rowe Sanctuary offers daily guided tours at sunrise and sunset to view the spectacular concentrations of Sandhill Cranes on their river roosts from new discovery stations strategically placed along the Platte River close to Sandhill Crane roosts. Nature enthusiasts, bird lovers, and photographers will have multiple ways to experience this historic migration.
Please understand that our phone lines are limited, we highly recommend reserving online for best results.
Sandhill Cranes. Photo: Don Berman.
Please read our virtual guide to visiting Rowe Sanctuary during Crane Season, with information on guided experiences, travel, and key tips to make the most of your journey.
Enjoy the cranes from the comfort of your own home with the virtual crane tour. The program will be led by a Rowe Sanctuary staff member who will begin the program with Crane Behavior Basics. Participants will learn about common behaviors cranes display along the river as well as conservation efforts by Rowe Sanctuary to help preserve the critical Platte River ecosystem.
After learning about cranes, participants will join the staff member in viewing a live stream of the cranes coming in to land on the river for the evening. While watching the live stream, the staff member will act as a tour guide and will point out any behaviors seen and answer questions from participants. Registration information coming soon - check out rowe.audubon.org/events.
Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary features one of the most intimate and spectacular views of the sandhill crane migration that occurs along the Platte River in Nebraska. The five mile stretch of river covered by this camera is one of the most densely populated sandhill crane roosts in the world with 100,000-200,000 cranes at the height of migration. Groups of cranes stay around three weeks once they arrive to this location and the best times to view them on the river is early mornings and evenings. The morning liftoff either happens slowly, with smaller groups of cranes leaving as the sun continues to rise, or more frequently with tens of thousands of sandhill cranes leaving all at once in a cloud that blots out the sky. Sandhill cranes return to the river in the evening to spend the night on the river’s shallow sandbars. Groups of cranes pour into the river silhouetted by the setting sun as they dance and socialize before falling asleep.
Watch the migration from our free online Crane Cam!
Crane Season: March and April
During Crane Season, some Rowe trails will have limited access to protect the birds from disturbance while on the roost.
Open trails will only be available from the time that the cranes leave the river in the morning (usually around 10:00 am) until 4:00 pm. Trails will be clearly marked as to whether they are open or closed. The Iain Nicolson Audubon Center is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. During Crane Season access to the grounds is restricted outside of these times.
Outside of Crane Season, Rowe’s trails and parking lot are open from dawn to dusk every day.
Keep checking back for crane season updates or subscribe to our eNews!
Please be aware all tours are subject to cancellation and refunds will be available if Covid-19 safety precautions change our scheduling.
We will be evaluating local conditions throughout the crane migration in order to determine the extent that Rowe Sanctuary’s public events and crane experiences can take place. The safety of our staff, volunteers, and guests are the utmost priority.We will be working with our local health department, Two Rivers Public Health Department, the state of Nebraska and the National Audubon Society as guidance on our safety procedures.
Volunteers are critical to the operations at the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary. Take a look at our volunteer opportunities and consider joining this incredible team.
Your generous support helps to ensure that Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife that depend on the Platte River will have this wonderful resource for years to come.
Our gift shop has a wide variety of items and your purchase supports our conservation efforts along the Platte River in south-central Nebraska.