This Labor Day weekend, the Yampa Valley Crane Festival returns to Steamboat Springs for the sixth time to celebrate Greater Sandhill Cranes, a captivating and iconic sight in the Yampa River Valley.
The annual event draws birdwatchers from around the country who flock to Northwest Colorado every September, when the cranes begin to gather in “staging areas” before heading south for their winter migration.
Greater Sandhill Cranes, standing four feet tall with wingspans exceeding six feet, are the only crane species found in Colorado. Their habitat consists largely of agricultural fields, riparian corridors, and wetlands, all of which YVLT works to conserve.
According to the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition (presenters of the YVCF), “the primary nesting areas for the Rocky Mountain Population of Greater Sandhill Cranes include Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Routt, and Rio Blanco Counties”. YVLT has conservation projects in four of those five counties; preserving valuable crane habitat, including critical nesting areas along the Yampa, Elk, and White Rivers that the birds depend on to raise their young. The YVLT-conserved Carpenter Ranch in Hayden, owned by the Nature Conservancy, is one of the venues where guided crane tours are being offered in conjunction with the Yampa Valley Crane Festival.
Although crane populations have remained relatively stable in recent years, cranes – like many species – are losing large blocks of their traditional grounds to ecosystem fragmentation and conversion. Willow-lined creeks, riparian areas, wetlands, irrigated hay meadows, and other water-based environments are critical for the cranes’ long-term survival, but these resources are limited in supply and quality crane habitat in Northwest Colorado is declining every year.
Support the organization dedicated to protecting these captivating creatures and their habitats across Northwest Colorado, and help us make sure Greater Sandhill Cranes will always have a home here in the Yampa Valley.