Baraboo plays host to an extraordinary natural event every year at this time, a gathering of thousands of Sandhill Cranes. The Wisconsin River near the Aldo Leopold Foundation is an annual staging area where thousands of cranes gather each year before heading south for the winter months. It’s hard to believe that just a short time ago, this event wasn’t even possible!
Sandhill Cranes, which have an amazing wingspan between 6-7 feet, were once hunted to near extinction. In 1916, the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act was signed to protect the remaining birds. Still, in Wisconsin, just a few pairs remained in the state in the 1940s. Slowly through the dedication of conservationists, things changed. Today, some estimate that Wisconsin sees 20,000 or more Sandhills migrate through the state each year. The recovery of the cranes means we have an opportunity today to see a natural spectacle that has not been witnessed in Wisconsin for more than a century!
Here in the Devil’s Lake region, the best time to see the cranes comes between now and mid-December. This year we actually had an early group come through in September, and now we can see them gathering up again. One of the best locations to experience the gathering of the cranes is at the Aldo Leopold Foundation along the Wisconsin River. The Foundation’s Crane Congregation Tours kick off next Tuesday, November 7th. Tours will be held on Tuesdays, Fridays & Saturdays through December 9th. (Keep in mind that registration opened in August and some tours may be booked.)
There are two distinct tour styles to chose from; Weeknight tours (Tuesdays) cost $35 per person and run for about one and a half hours. While longer weekend tours (Fridays & Saturdays) run about 3 hours, starting with a wine and cheese reception at the Leopold Center and a presentation by renown bird expert Dr. Stanley Temple who will also lead these tours. Folks who go on the weekend tour can also take part in a complimentary tour of the Leopold Shack and Farm before beginning the Crane Congregations experience. Weekend Tours are $75 per person. Click here for details & registration information.
If you’re really into wildlife photography, getting an opportunity to photograph the crane congregation is something special as well. The Aldo Leopold Foundation has Individual, portable blinds that can be reserved for those wishing to capture images and video. The staff will monitor the cranes and place the blinds in locations for optimal viewing. The fee is $150. To reserve a blind click here.
For those of you who can’t make it out to the Aldo Leopold Foundation this year, there are other areas where you may be able to find large groups of cranes. We recommend Pickerel Slough within Mirror Lake State Park. (Map) Contact park staff for good locations! Also in the rural areas north-east of Baraboo along County Roads T and U will also have large numbers of cranes out in the fields during November. If you go out to this area, be aware that this is all private property and there are often no good pull-offs for viewing.
Now, if you just can’t get outside to see the cranes yourself this year, never fear. We’ve got you covered too! The Aldo Leopold Foundation is allowing us to use a blind in just a couple of weeks to share photos & video with you as well. We’re certainly looking forward to that! Watch our social media channels for updates!
Crane Watching. Just another amazing natural attraction here in the Devil’s Lake region!
For more Information Contact:E13701 Levee Road
Baraboo, WI 53913