From a dynamic urban landscape to historic prairie, the Nebraska Crane Safari will surprise and inspire. For 10,000 years, hundreds of thousands of Sandhill cranes have been drawn to the Platte River in Nebraska during the month of March. It is their annual northward migration, and the shallow river and surrounding prairie and cornfields provide the ideal refueling stopover. You will have a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to revel in the cranes’ primordial calls and witness the stunning spectacle of their descent to the river in the evening and their awakening and arising in the morning … an ancient ritual that has been going on for eons. The Crane Trust Legacy Cabins sit on one of the largest expanses of rare tall- and mixed-grass prairies in the country – 4,500 acres of historic grasslands on which pioneers once found their way west. Sweeping vistas await you. This historic prairie is now home to the first herd of genetically-pure bison in over 100 years. See these iconic beasts – descended from the last 1,000 pure bison that survived near-extinction – interact in their native habitat.
Slightly Active. May involve some walking and climbing.
Our program is only offered in March when the Sandhill Cranes congregate to this area in the thou-sands. Unlike popular belief that Nebraska is cold in March, the weather can in fact be quite varied. Over the past crane seasons, there was everything from clear skies and 70 degree weather to 10 degrees, windy, and snowing. Regardless of the weather, however, the cranes always arrive in great numbers and the warmth of the Ranch and hospitality of your hosts more than makes up for any increment weather.
Welcome to Omaha! Downtown’s historic district, the Old Market, is your first destination in Nebraska – and a mere 10 minutes from the airport. What was formerly the marketplace for produce merchants is now a shopping, creative and cultural hub of Omaha. Ethnic cuisines such as Persian, Indian and Mexican, classic Midwest steaks, upscale pub or Parisian Bohemian fare options are just the beginning. Short optional excursions take you to the Lauritzen Gardens, the Henry Doorly Zoo, or various art galleries. Strolling the brick streets of the Old Market will lead you to eclectic boutiques, tea and coffee shops and bookstores. Tonight, gather with your fellow travelers for a welcome dinner at the Old Market. EMBASSY SUITES DOWNTOWN. (D)
Enjoy your choice of morning activities in downtown Omaha. Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s Botanical Garden, opens up at 9:00 AM, plenty of time to take in the spectacular new 17,000 square-foot glass conservatory, a fourseason attraction boasting exotic plants blooming year-round. Your Crane Trust host will meet you at the Embassy Suites for a 1:00 pm departure. The bustle of Omaha gives way to open spaces as you make your way to central Nebraska and the Crane Trust. The first stop is the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center, an imposing and beautiful building of 12,000 square feet, filled with science, art and interactive displays, large-screen videos and a gift shop. You’ll receive a personal tour of the Center’s educational resources about the Sandhill and Whooping crane migrations and Nebraska’s rare prairie and riverine habitat. And that is just the inside of the Nature & Visitor Center. Outside are river and prairie trails, an observation tower, bird feeders attracting local species and a small herd of exhibition bison. After your orientation at the Visitor Center, your host will escort you to your cabins on the Crane Trust Wild Rose Ranch, and allow you to settle in – while you gaze out at a beautiful expanse of prairie and listen to cranes as they fly overhead. Visitors often report that they feel an almost immediate sense of relaxation. A pre-viewing reception is next – just 100 feet from your cabin in the Crane Trust Wild Rose Ranch building. The reception room opens up onto a viewing deck, and the first cranes returning to the river can be sighted in the early evening.
Following a short briefing, guests are driven a mile up the road and guided on foot to the Pietrok Family VIP Blind, designed for optimum viewing. Heaters, carpeting and stadium seating contribute to comfort. There you’ll be witness to stunning views of the Sandhill Cranes as they settle into the river and onto sandbars for their evening roost. You’ll exit the blind in soft moonlight and find dinner being served in the Ranch building when you return, excited to share your experience of the cranes. A hearty dinner, with entertainment, follows. Your questions about the Sandhill Crane migration and the prairie habitat are answered in a short presentation by president and CEO, Chuck Cooper. Then you’ll be free to retire for the evening to the cabins, accompanied by the calls of the cranes from the river and treated to incomparable stars overhead. CRANE TRUST LEGACY CABINS. (B,L,D)
While it is still dark, you’ll be up and making your way to the Ranch building for coffee or tea and a light snack. Visitors enter the blind about an hour before sunrise, while the birds are still mostly quiet. The morning blind experience has a hushed, serene feel. Sunrise over the Platte River coincides with the birds awakening, warming and beginning their dancing and social behavior, as well as calling to each other. Occasionally, an eagle will disrupt the tranquility and masses of birds will arise in a rush. It is different every day. After about 90 minutes in the VIP blind, you’ll once again return to the Ranch building for breakfast and a briefing on the day. Mid-morning offers free time for guests to walk the Crane Trust trails, bird watch or relax. Following lunch, you’ll embark on an escorted excursion off the Wild Rose Ranch. On the way, your host will point out the Crane Trust Piping Plover/ Least Tern beach and pond – constructed to help these threatened/endangered birds recover. You’ll also have the opportunity to see a host of migrating waterfowl, such as Pintail Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, Mergansers, Buffleheads and Blue-winged Teals.
Out in the fields surrounding the Wild Rose Ranch will be hundreds and thousands of cranes feeding and dancing, as they forage for the long journey ahead. And along the way, your host will treat you to harrowing and humorous true stories of early pioneer families from the mid-1800’s. You’ll be immersed in never-tilled prairie, as the SUV takes you to Mormon Island. Sandhill Cranes are drawn to the sloughs and wet meadows of Mormon Island, and can be viewed and photographed in their ancient habitat. You’ll be escorted to higher ground abutting the river, which affords rarely-seen vistas of the beautiful braided Platte River.
Back at the Ranch, there will be free time in the late afternoon, before returning to the Ranch building for your evening crane viewing. Before heading out to the Pietrok Family VIP blind, you’ll come together again as a group for a social hour so you can swap stories and ask questions of senior Crane Trust staff and guides. No evening or morning is ever the same; deer, coyote and river otters make appearances along with the cranes. It is exceedingly rare, but on occasion, a Whooping Crane graces the scene. Dinner will follow, along with a short, well-produced PBS documentary about the cranes and the Trust. CRANE TRUST LEGACY CABINS. (B,L,D Daily)
Your last pre-dawn awakening will reward you with hot coffee and pastry, and the unforgettable sights and sounds of the prehistoric Sandhill Cranes. The flocks, which appear as landmasses in the dark, are transformed into animated, gregarious and highly communicative groups of tall cranes. You’ll be more experienced and educated crane watchers by this time, and able to discern new behaviors and fascinations. When the cranes have left their river roost and the morning’s wildlife display has passed, you’ll return to the Ranch building for a hearty breakfast and final safari roundup. Your crane safari concludes around 10:00 AM, when you’ll say farewell to the prairie and the Sandhill Cranes and return to Omaha.
Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.
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