Cranes soar into Tennessee


Migrating Sandhill Cranes

Tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes are soaring south for the winter just in time for the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival Jan. 19-20 at Hiwassee Refuge.

“This is an amazing wildlife watching opportunity,” says Cyndi Routledge, president of the Audubon Society and co-chair of the festival. “Not every state in the United States has the opportunity to view migrant Sandhill Cranes. They take your breath away when you watch them.”

The two-day festival will host a myriad of speakers and vendors. The American Eagle Foundation will be present with a raptor show, Joan Garland with the International Crane Foundation will speak, and storytellers, vendors, bands and children’s activities will all be held at Birchwood Elementary School, the hub of the three-site festival.

From Birchwood, shuttles will carry any and all bird enthusiasts to the Hiwassee Refuge and to the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park to catch sight of the magnificent birds as they fly overhead, dance and call to each other.


A dinner and silent auction is taking place Saturday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Rhea County Welcome Center in Dayton.

The proceeds from the dinner will benefit the Crane Fund, a restricted fund of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation that promotes viewing, research and habitat management for Whooping and Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee. Tickets are $28.

For more information visit

Early Birds

You don’t have to wait for the festival to check out the cranes at the Hiwassee Refuge. The cranes have been arriving since November and thousands are already making a stop in the area.

To get to the refuge:

» Take I-75 N until you come to Exit 25 (Cleveland).

» Travel north on Highway 60 through the town of Birchwood. About 1.7 miles north of Birchwood, turn right on Shadden Road.

» Drive one mile and turn right on Blythe Ferry Road.

» Take the next left on Priddy Lane and follow the signs.


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