Spring Magic in Nebraska with Birding & Beers
March 18-20, 2023
An American Serengeti Series Trip
Some people regard Nebraska as flyover country – a state to be missed as you move from one coast to the other. We wholeheartedly disagree.
Every March, Nebraska becomes home to one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in North America. More than half a million Sandhill Cranes, the world’s largest congregation of cranes, converges on the Platte River Valley in Nebraska. Joining the Sandhill Cranes are another 20 million birds – waterfowl, shorebirds, and the endangered Whooping Crane. They stop to rest and refuel in the adjacent Rainwater Basin before continuing further north to their summer breeding grounds. So many birds are here during spring migration that vast expanses of open sky are filled with sounds of flapping wings and a chorus of calls.
At the same time, male Greater Prairie-Chickens gather at ancient breeding grounds and compete for the chance to mate in Nebraska’s prairie grasslands. Their raucous displays include stomping, booming, whooping, and sparring. With exposed tail coverts and balloon-like air sacs flashing orange and yellow, few performances in the bird world are more memorable than this dawn dance of chickens.
We’ll spend three days exploring Nebraska’s wildlife hotspots. We have strategically selected areas away from crowds so that we have the time and space to truly enjoy these wildlife spectacles in true Reefs to Rockies style. We’ll travel in a custom American safari van with a conversion pop-top and spacious seating. This is not the traditional passenger van you may have traveled in on past trips. This one-of-a-kind vehicle has been specially designed by two wildlife biologists to allow for optimal viewing. It makes a perfect ‘blind’ and there’s ample room for everyone to view at the same time. Get ready for Spring Magic in Nebraska!
About Your Expedition Leader: Sheridan Samano, Co-founder of Reefs to Rockies and Founder of Birding & Beers is thrilled to host this small group wildlife expedition to Nebraska. She designed this itinerary based on her detailed knowledge of when and where to find world-class wildlife experiences without crowds. During this trip, her love for the Great Plains will be unmistakable as she takes you into the heart of Nebraska. No Birding & Beers trip is complete without stops at a variety of locally-owned craft breweries along the way.
Conservation Impact: The Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT), founded in 1998, creates and protects a network of shortgrass prairie preserves, ensuring a future for native flora and fauna. A donation to SPLT to aid in their land acquisition efforts will be made on behalf of all participants.
Day 1 (Mon, March 18): Denver to Ogallala ~ Morning departure from Denver for our scenic drive to Nebraska’s Platte River Valley with birding stops along the way. We’ll spend time this afternoon searching for cranes feeding in fields adjacent to the North Platte River. In the last hour of daylight, we’ll watch as flocks of cranes return to their nightly roost sites, our first introduction to the magnitude of this annual wildlife spectacle.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express and Suites – Ogallala
Day 2 (Tues, March 19): Ogallala to North Platte and McCook ~ We have the morning to continue birding area reservoir hotspots as we make our way east to North Platte, a city rich in history located at the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers. Here, the two rivers becomes the Platte. There’s time to explore Platte River Valley backroads between North Platte and Hershey. After lunch in North Platte, we’ll make our way south to McCook. We’ll hear tales of Greater Prairie-Chickens this evening from an engaging storyteller before our dinner downtown.
Cobblestone Hotel and Suites – McCook
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 3 (Wed, March 20): McCook to Denver ~ Today begins early with a visit to a nearby ranch that’s home to Greater Prairie-Chickens. Before sunrise, males start arriving to this historic lek, a place where multiple males gather during mating season and engage in competitive displays. Our blind is close to the action so we can observe the interactions between the alpha male and his challengers.
After a hearty mid-morning breakfast in McCook, we’ll start making our way back to Denver. There’s time for birding and wildlife viewing en route. Stops will be determined based on recent sightings and the group’s interests.
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Price: $1350* per person based on double occupancy accommodations, i.e. two people sharing a room. If you prefer a private, single occupancy room, add $155*.
Tour cost includes double occupancy accommodations, transportation from Denver in the Roaming Bison Safari Vehicle, meals as listed, four brewery experiences, driver/guide expedition leader, daily guided wildlife viewing with spotting scope available, activities as listed, additional local guide in McCook for the prairie-chicken leks, gratuities for your guide and at restaurants for included meals, and a conservation donation to Southern Plains Land Trust.
Exclusions: transportation to/from meeting point in northeast Denver, travel insurance, 1 dinner, optional activities, optional gratuities for hotel staff, and personal items.
Group Size: min of 5 and max of 6 participants + Expedition Leader. We are known for smaller group sizes with a better participant to guide ratio than most companies offering similar itineraries. This trip starts and ends in the Denver Metro area (likely the RTD’s Central Park Station Park-N-Ride).
Level of Difficulty: Winter weather in Nebraska can be cold and windy. Participants should be prepared to spend to spend birding periods of 30 minutes to an hour outside with walks up to a mile in length. Blinds are not heated and sessions typically last 1-2 hrs.
A Note About Gratuities: Your trip cost includes gratuities for your guides, as well as at restaurants for included meals. This allows us to reliably and equitably compensate everyone working so hard to keep you happy, healthy, and safe during your trip.
A Note About Minimum Group Size: If fewer than the minimum number of participants register, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a group supplement fee per person based on the number of people registered. That fee will be subject to approval by the registered participants.