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Steamboat Magazine

Inaugural Yampa Valley Crane Festival Sept. 16-19

08/23/2012 05:16PM ● By Christina Freeman

Sandhill Cranes, Courtesy of the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition

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

Steamboat Springs, CO) – 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. When the threat of a Sandhill Crane hunt was narrowly averted last spring, a new organization, Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, stepped up to turn the dream into a reality. 

 Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition (CCCC) is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of Sandhill Cranes in Colorado. As part of its mission, CCCC, with help from co-sponsors Bud Werner Memorial Library, The Nature Conservancy, Yampa Valley Land Trust, USDA Forest Service, Yampatika and several other local businesses and organizations, has put together the inaugural Yampa Valley Crane Festival. 

 “We hope the festival will give people a better understanding and appreciation of the cranes that breed, roost, and stage in the Yampa Valley,” explains Nancy Merrill, President of CCCC and one of the festival organizers. The festival will take place in Steamboat Springs and Hayden from September 16-19, and will feature crane viewing, expert speakers, films, family activities, a photography workshop, a crane art show, and more. All scheduled events are open to the public and free. 

 “Cranes evoke strong emotions in humans and enrich our lives by their presence. We believe that our festival will inspire people to better protect this amazing creature and its habitat,” says Barbara Hughes, CCCC co-founder and festival organizer. 

 The highlight of the festival will be the keynote speech delivered by George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. Dr. Archibald will share an amazing story of how Greater Sandhill Cranes in the Rocky Mountains of North America, Black- necked Cranes on Asia’s Tibetan Plateau, and Demoiselle Cranes that migrate over the peaks of the Himalayas, survive at high altitudes. He will also explain the unique challenges in conserving these remarkable creatures as human populations spread up the slopes and as fragile high-altitude climates change. For a day-by-day schedule of festival events, go to