Crane Viewing Sites

2018- Crane Watch Brochure

Central Platte NRD has crane and waterfowl viewing decks along the Platte River with free parking.
▪ Richard Plautz Crane Viewing Site: 1.5 miles south of 1-80 Exit 285 (Gibbon)
▪ Alda Crane Viewing Site: 2 miles south of 1-80 Exit 305 (Alda)

There are three additional roadside turnouts to enjoy safe viewing located south & east of the Alda interchange on Platte River Drive, and west of Rowe Sanctuary on Elm Island Road. (See maps below.)

Other Crane & Wildlife Viewing Sites

Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary  LOCATED 20 MINUTES FROM KEARNEY, NE  (308) 468-5282

Crane Trust Nature & Visitors Center  9325 SOUTH ALDA ROAD, WOOD RIVER, NE 68883  (308) 382-1820

Crane ViewingMigration in the Platte River Valley

The Platte River valley and neighboring Rainwater Basin provide essential food and nutrients for Sandhill Cranes, Whooping Cranes and other waterfowl during migration and during nesting season.  At least 257 species of birds have been observed in the Rainwater Basin including: 27 species of waterfowl, 27 species of shorebirds, and 5 threatened and endangered species–whooping cranes, bald eagles, least terns, piping plovers and peregrine falcons.

  • Disturbances can jeopardize their health, physical condition and reproductive success. Encourage others around you to use the following proper etiquette:
  • Do not approach cranes or waterfowl while in the field.  It will disrupt their feeding.
  • Do not approach birds on their roosts.  Panicked flights use up precious energy resources.
  • Do not honk your horn, flash lights or yell at migratory birds. It is illegal and disrupts the bird watching experience for others.
  • Do not stop on roadways, driveways or any other farm road or gated entry. It’s unsafe to stop on roadways & most land in this area is private property.


In 1993, a task force of various governmental & private agency representatives was brought together by Central Platte NRD to develop ideas in response to concern about safety for local residents, farmers and crane watchers in the Central Platte valley, especially during early morning and late afternoon hours on local roads. The Task Force developed a comprehensive plan known as the Central Platte Historic, Scenic & Trails Project to be completed in phases.

Approval was granted in 1994 by the Nebraska Department of Roads under the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) for Phase I of the comprehensive plan developed by the task force.  According to the grant application, the multi-year project promoted awareness of the historic importance of the Central Platte Valley as a transportation corridor dating from the early 1800s. The corridor was used by explorers such as Stephen H. Long and John Charles Fremont and by fur traders who passed back and forth on and along the Platte River. In the period from the 1840s-1860s, the Platte River Valley was a virtual “superhighway” as the major transcontinental route of the covered wagon migration; it became known as “The Great Platte River Road.”

Three roadside turnout areas between Doniphan and Shelton on the road along the south side of the Platte were developed in Phase I. A portion of the cost was paid under the ISTEA and the remaining cost was contributed by the NRD and participating counties-Hall and Buffalo. The Audubon Society provided land for a roadside turnout near Shelton.  Use of the Platte River for recreational purposes occurs now, but it is restricted by accessibility and use of the river by endangered and protected wildlife species.

The public viewing decks provide free crane/waterfowl viewing and provide a safe and bird-friendly way to view cranes throughout the day.  Parking is available at each deck.  Locations: Richard Plautz Crane Viewing Site is1.5 miles south of 1-80 Exit 285 (Gibbon), Alda Crane Viewing Site is 2 miles south of 1-80 Exit 305 (Alda), three additional roadside turnouts are located south and east of the Alda interchange on Platte River Drive, and west of the Rowe Sanctuary office on Elm Island Road.

For more information on CPNRD’s viewing sites, contact Jesse Mintken (308) 385-6282