Local businesses prepare for thousands of visitors as Sandhill Cranes approach
Each March more than 600,000 Sandhill Cranes migrate through the Platte River Valley in central Nebraska. It's one of the most popular wildlife spectacles, that also gives mom and pop shops across our area a major boost.
Linda Ard grew up in a Minden farmhouse, but about 11 years ago she and her husband converted it into a bed and breakfast and added a restaurant. Now, it is a favorite for visitors hoping to get a look at the Sandhill Cranes.
"We found out very fast that we were going to make more money in March than any other month, and several of the months put together," said Linda Ard, owner of Burchell’s White Hill Farmhouse Inn.
As the peak of Sandhill Cranes migration season approaches, the clock is ticking to make sure everything is in tiptop shape at Burchell's White Hill Farmhouse Inn, in Minden.
"We buy new sheets and new towels, we put up new shower curtains, we change out light bulbs,” Ard said.
Over the next six weeks, nearly 100 people will spend the night at the four-bedroom inn, and that's not including the bus loads who pass through the restaurant.
"People coming from Hawaii. Several groups coming from Alaska. We've had people in the past form South Africa and from Canada," Ard said.
Most of those guests will be among the estimated 25,000 visitors stopping by Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbon, to catch a glimpse of the birds.
"That typically includes folks from all 50 states and at least that many countries," said Rowe Sanctuary director of conservation, Andrew Pierson.
He also said the Sandhill Cranes that migrate through Nebraska are flying in from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and even Mexico.
"Cranes, when they come to the Platte River they're sort of using the habitat along the river for roosting at night. Then, they're utilizing, for the most part, grain crop fields for feeding during the day time," Pierson said.
Ard said it’s not just cranes guests are asking about.
"'What are those things that go around in the field?' Of course, they're talking about the pivots. We talk a lot about farming," Ard said.
The peak of migration season for the Sandhill Cranes is typically the second half of March.
Pierson said at that time Rowe Sanctuary could see around 80,000 cranes on just a few miles of river near the facility.