The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Tyler Ellyson
UNK Communications 

Connecting Students with State Parks Jobs


March 21, 2018

KEARNEY – Sam Wetzel doesn’t have any trouble meeting new people.

Her job at Fort Kearny State Historical Park and Recreation Area introduces her to travelers from across the globe, especially during sandhill crane season.

“There are people from a lot of different places,” said Wetzel, who met tourists from Colorado, Florida, Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin and New York during Saturday’s shift at the park’s visitors center.

Thousands of bird watchers, including many visitors from foreign countries, flock to the popular viewing site along the Platte River south of Kearney each year to get a glimpse of the world’s largest concentration of sandhill cranes.

During the height of crane season, which runs from late February through early April along a 90-mile stretch of the river, an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 of the birds – about 80 percent of the total population – stop here to fuel up on corn missed by farmers during last year’s harvest before continuing their annual migration to northern nesting grounds.

“We’re one of the top 10 birding spots in the world,” said Gene Hunt, superintendent at Fort Kearny State Historical Park and the nearby recreation area.

The spectacle is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many photographers, journalists and nature lovers.


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