September is for Sandhill. Cranes that is.


From the listings desk: I've written extensively about Colorado Gators, our favorite animal attraction outside the region. But it's not the only destination of the animalia stripe you can drive to.

There's also the new-ish Yampa Valley Crane Festival, set for Sept. 6 through 9 in Steamboat Springs and Hayden. Anyone who's lived here a while has surely heard of the fabled sandhill cranes, whose annual migration preparation from northwest Colorado and the San Luis Valley to warmer climes due south is a sight for birders professional and amateur alike. According to the Audubon Society, sandhills also nest all along the Platte River, from Nebraska (where fossil records 9 million years old have been found — making them the oldest living birds on Earth) to Colorado. When migrating to New Mexico or northern Mexico, they're known to travel up to 500 miles in a single day, given a good tailwind. It adds, "Cranes ride thermals so efficiently that sandhill cranes have been seen over Mt. McKinley, and Siberian Cranes over Mt. Everest (~28,000 feet)."

  • Gerhard Assenmacher, courtesy CCCC
  • Gerhard Assenmacher, courtesy CCCC

The group of adults and young that habitually stop through the Yampa Valley are particularly faithful to the area, so much so, that the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition started up a festival devoted solely to crane viewing. And according to this year's press materials, last year was such a success that a 2013 follow up was possible.

And best of all, it's all free. That includes presentations "from three outstanding crane experts",  films, a crane-themed art show, daily guided crane viewings and kid's activities.

Read the press release after the jump, or visit the festival website, which has detailed information on each day's schedule.

Rather not make the hike up to Steamboat? Well, there aren't sandhill cranes around here much, but if you keep a sharp eye out, you may catch a great blue heron. Look out for silvery blue feathers, a hefty wingspan and their signature flight stance: Long legs held straight out behind them.

Announcing the second annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival in Steamboat Springs and Hayden, Sept. 6-9, 2013

Four days of free events celebrating the region’s magnificent Sandhill Cranes!

(Steamboat Springs, CO) – The second annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival takes place in Steamboat Springs and Hayden from September 6-9, featuring crane viewing sessions, expert speakers, films, family activities, a crane art show, and more. All scheduled events are open to the public and free.

“After the inaugural year’s resounding success, we know this festival will continue to give people a better understanding and enjoyment of the cranes that breed, roost, and stage in the Yampa Valley. This is a chance to learn more about crane science, explore the art that these magnificent birds inspire, and get out on the ground to enjoy their company,” says Nancy Merrill, festival organizer and President of the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc.

A highlight of the festival will be the talks given by three outstanding crane experts. Internationally renowned conservation photographer Michael Forsberg will present a slideshow and talk entitled “From Cranes to Plains- A Photographer’s Journey Connecting the Heart of a Continent.” Wildlife biologist Rod Drewien, considered the world’s expert on the Rocky Mountain Greater Sandhill Crane population, will focus on his work over the years with this sub-species. An update on the White-naped Crane conservation project in Mongolia will be presented by U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region Avian Program Coordinator Robert Skorkowsky.

Additional festival highlights include guided bird/nature walks in some of the Yampa Valley’s most magnificent settings, children and family activities, a Crane Art Show at The Depot which opens during the First Friday Artwalk in Steamboat Springs, and daily guided crane viewing opportunities around the valley.

Sandhill Cranes are an iconic species of the Yampa Valley and Northwest Colorado. For years, a group of enthusiastic birders and nature lovers has gathered each fall at a small ranch near Hayden, Colorado, to watch the cranes – both the adults and their young – forage for food, dance in the fields, and practice flying in anticipation of their grand migration south to warmer wintering territory. The sights and sounds of these spectacular birds on their fall staging ground in the Yampa Valley led some to dream about an event in which locals and tourists would gather together to learn about this population of cranes and to celebrate their presence in Northwest Colorado. The Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc. turned the dream into a reality.

Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition (CCCC) is dedicated to the conservation and protection of Sandhill Cranes in Colorado. Yampa Valley Crane Festival is presented by the CCCC, with help from partners including the Bud Werner Memorial Library, The Nature Conservancy, Yampa Valley Land Trust, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, USDA Forest Service, Yampatika, and many other local businesses and organizations.

“Cranes evoke strong emotions in humans and enrich our lives by their presence. This festival will inspire people to continue protecting this amazing creature and its habitat,” says Barbara Hughes, CCCC co-founder.

Yampa Valley Crane Festival’s daily schedule of festival events is posted at

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast