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Embark on this incredible Sandhill Crane migration trip. Each year, half a million Sandhill Cranes descend upon Nebraska’s Platte River. By March, nearly 80% of the world’s population crowds a 150-mile stretch of the river, creating a migration spectacle that is simply mind-boggling to witness. This is the largest gathering of cranes anywhere in the world! Here, the cranes rest and feed before they continue north to breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska, and even into Siberia.

Among the cranes are over 10-million ducks and geese, stunning in breeding plumage. We time this popular tour a touch on the early side so that our group has the chance to experience skies full of Snow Geese, too!

We have based this Nebraska nature tour out of Lincoln to keep the driving time down and the airport quiet—yes! It’s a lovely city and galleries and restaurants abound. You may even want to come in early to enjoy the atmosphere and several excellent museums at your leisure.

Tour Highlights

  • Immerse yourself at the National Audubon’s Spring Creek Prairie Reserve and enjoy the pleasant trail system and plentiful feeder birds
  • Experience hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Crane as they roost, feed, and sing along the Platte River
  • Witness a “crane rise” at dawn as clouds of cranes awake with a cacophony of sound
  • Marvel at the thousands of Snow Geese and other waterfowl at Rainwater Basin
  • Opt to visit the Nebraska Museum of art, small, but a true treasure
  • Enjoy the crane spectacle from privately reserved blinds at Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary

Trip Itinerary

Sun., Mar. 19 : Arrival in Lincoln, Nebraska


Arrive in Lincoln, the state capital of Nebraska. Our expert guides are at the airport to welcome you. After getting settled into your room you can take a short walk to enjoy the historic Haymarket District or relax at the hotel prior to dinner. We plan a welcome dinner at a favorite restaurant in the Haymarket area.
Accommodations at Embassy Suites, Lincoln (D)

Mon., Mar. 20 : Spring Creek Prairie | Crane Trust


This morning we enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then pack up for our two-hour drive to Kearney. Your guides share their knowledge of the birds and the prairie along the way. Our first stop west of Lincoln is at Audubon’s Spring Creek Prairie, where we walk the trails and watch bird activity at the feeders.

Next we enjoy a restaurant lunch en route and then head to the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center where we hear about the conservation work they are doing along the Platte River. The group also gets an in-depth introduction to the Sandhill Cranes we see in the coming days.

After we are finished at the Crane Trust, it’s on to Kearney to settle into our lodging, unpack, and unwind. Tonight we enjoy dinner as we get to know our guides and travel companions.

Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Kearney (B,L,D)

Tue., Mar. 21 : Sunrise on the Platte River | Crane Behavior


We start our day at Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary where we experience our first sunrise with the cranes. The walk to the viewing blind is approximately a quarter of a mile one way. After a couple of hours in the blind, we return to the visitor center to see what birds are at the feeders.

After our visit to Rowe, we return to Kearney for brunch and then have a couple of hours of down time back at the hotel.

In the afternoon we head out to find cranes in the fields to look for the behaviors the group learned about the day before. Tonight we enjoy dinner and a relaxing evening at a delightful local restaurant.

The remainder of the morning we spend viewing more crane activity in the fields, returning to Kearney for a lunch in town.

In the afternoon we visit historic Fort Kearney to learn more about the pioneers of the Oregon and Mormon Trails. In trees near the fort we look for wintering and resident passerine birds like Cedar Waxwing, Northern Cardinal, and Blue Jay, while keeping an eye out along the river for the majestic Bald Eagles that frequent the Platte. Tonight we enjoy dinner and a relaxing evening at a delightful local restaurant.
Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Kearney (Br,D)

Wed., Mar. 22 : Sunrise on the Prairie | The Archway Option | Evening with Cranes


This morning we drive north of Kearney to experience sunrise with Greater Prairie-Chickens displaying on their lek. The walk to the viewing blind is approximately 200 yards one way. After an hour or so in a blind, we return to Kearney for brunch.

After brunch, we again have a couple of hours to rest. In the afternoon, we have the option to visit The Archway Monument, followed by an early dinner. After dinner we travel to the Crane Trust for an evening with the cranes.

Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Kearney (Br,D)

Thurs., Mar. 23 : Harlan County Reservoir | Free Evening or Optional Evening with Cranes


This morning enjoy breakfast at the hotel, with a more leisurely rising time before we head south to Harlan County Reservoir to search for waterfowl and other early migrants. We grab lunch while we're out and about and on our return to Kearney, we stop at a Prairie Dog town located in the Rainwater Basin where we also hope to see Burrowing Owl.

Tonight dinner is at a restaurant that is just a short walk from the hotel. Afterwards you can choose to relax or die-hard crane fans can venture back out at sunset to watch the cranes come back to roost in the river.

Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Kearney (B,L,D)

Fri., Mar. 24 : Sunrise with the Cranes | Celebratory Dinner | Ft. Kearny Bridge


We start our day with a return to Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary to enjoy one more morning with the cranes. There is time after the tour to peruse the gift shop in the visitor center as well as check out what’s at the feeders before we head back to Kearney for brunch.

After brunch, we again have a couple of hours to rest. In the afternoon we seek out cranes in the fields to observe their behavior.

We celebrate our great week with an early dinner and then return to the Fort Kearny Hike-Bike Trail Bridge over the Platte River for one last evening with the cranes.

Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Kearney (Br,D)

Sat., Mar. 25 : Departures


This morning, we return to Lincoln for flights out after noon, arriving the airport by 10:30 AM. (B)

  • Blind Orientation, Nebraska, Platte River, Platte River Nature Tour, Sandhill Crane Nature Tour, Platte River Birding Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Nebraska, Platte River, Platte River Nature Tour, Sandhill Crane Nature Tour, Platte River Birding Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Nebraska, Platte River, Platte River Nature Tour, Sandhill Crane Nature Tour, Platte River Birding Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Nebraska, Platte River, Platte River Nature Tour, Sandhill Crane Nature Tour, Platte River Birding Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Nebraska, Platte River, Platte River Nature Tour, Sandhill Crane Nature Tour, Platte River Birding Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Tall grass Prairie, Nebraska, Platte River, Platte River Nature Tour, Sandhill Crane Nature Tour, Platte River Birding Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Nebraska, Platte River, Platte River Nature Tour, Sandhill Crane Nature Tour, Platte River Birding Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • White-tailed Deer, Nebraska, Platte River, Platte River Nature Tour, Sandhill Crane Nature Tour, Platte River Birding Tour, Naturalist Journeys

Cost of the Journey

Cost of the journey is $2490 DBL / $2950 SGL, from Lincoln, Nebraska. Cost includes: all accommodations; all meals as stated in the itinerary; group airport transfers; ground transportation; professional guide services; park, preserve, and other activity fees; and miscellaneous program expenses.

Tour price does not include: round trip airfare to and from Lincoln, Nebraska, or items of a personal nature such as laundry, porterage, telephone charges, or alcoholic beverages. Gratuities for your guides and other staff are not included; these are at your discretion, but highly appreciated and recommended.

Travel Details

Please plan to arrive in Lincoln no later than 5:00 PM on March 19. Please plan on departures after NOON on March 25.

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.

Nebraska

Platte River

  • Kent Skaggs

    Kent was born and raised in Nebraska and this is where he developed his passion for birds and nature in general. He worked 20 years at Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary where he helped countless visitors experience the annual spring staging of Sandhill Cranes along the Platte River in south-central Nebraska. While at Rowe, he conducted bird surveys on the sanctuary and coordinated and led birding field trips for the annual Audubon Nebraska Crane Festival. He also spent three seasons leading tours to see displaying Greater Prairie-Chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse for Calamus Outfitters in the Nebraska Sandhills. Kent and his partner Kathy currently reside in southwest Virginia.

    Other trips with Kent Skaggs

  • Dave Krueper

    Dave is a retired professional wildlife biologist, having worked as an avian technical specialist for the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service for nearly 40 years. He has worked in a variety of regions, including Alaska, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Northwestern Mexico. His favorite areas are Alaska, the southern Rocky Mountain states, Northwestern Mexico, and the New World Tropics. Dave loves to combine birding and travel, and has been fortunate to do both in 34 countries on 6 continents. He is also an avid bird and landscape photographer, with published photos in several books, field guides, magazines and on-line publications. He greatly enjoys sharing the wonders of the avian world with others and spending quality time with others on tours and natural history adventures. He and his wife Janet live in Corrales, New Mexico, and are proud Land of Enchantment residents for over 20 years.

    Other trips with Dave Krueper

Map for Platte River Cranes:  A Migration Spectacular

Photo credits: Banners: Sandhill Cranes by Greg Smith; Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese by Peg Abbott; Sandhill Cranes at Sunrise by Greg Smith; Western Meadowlark by Hugh Simmons Photography; Burrowing Owl by Greg Smith; Sandhill Crane Sign at Rowe Sanctuary by Peg Abbott; Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River by Greg Smith; Snow Geese by Peg Abbott; Bald Eagles, Sandy Sorkin; Northern Cardinal, Sandy Sorkin; Cranes at Sunset, Greg Smith; Sandhill Cranes at Sunset by Ed Pembleton; Blind Orientation, Ed Pembleton; Cranes at Sunset by Susie Russenberger; Misty Morning Cranes by Ed Pembleton; Group in Blinds, Ed Pembleton; Tall Grass Prairie, Ed Pembleton; Group on Boardwalk, Ed Pembleton; White-tailed Deer, Ed Pembleton.

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