Photo © 2001 Ken
Celebrating Spring in the Valley of the Cranes
31st Annual MV Crane Festival will be March 7 - 9, 2014.
Late in February, sandhill cranes,
the San Luis Valley’s oldest visitors, begin their annual trek
from south to north, stopping off near the Monte Vista National
Wildlife Refuge to load up on fuel. For millions of years, the
sandhills have been spending their "Spring Break" in Colorado’s
Valley of the Cranes and more recently, wildlife watchers have
been drawn to wonder at this phenomenal natural spectacle.
No one really knows what the early
residents of southern Colorado thought about this majestic
migration of cranes, but they were paying attention to it. High
on a rocky cliff face southwest of Monte Vista is a
well-protected six foot long petroglyph that is unmistakably a
sandhill crane. So, as much as 2,000 years ago, humans were
celebrating the return of these magnificent birds to the Valley
of the Cranes.
Today, crane watchers come from far
and wide to join this celebration at the Monte Vista Crane
Festival. While the festival offers outstanding opportunities
for celebrating and understanding cranes and other wildlife, the
common denominator that brings visitors back year after year is
the 20,000 or so greater sandhill cranes and a few thousand
lesser sandhills, that really put on a show for each other and
visitors, too. Besides the cranes there are thousands of
waterfowl, numerous wintering bald eagles and other raptors that
highlight the wildlife viewing.
The festival hosts wildlife experts,
local naturalists and biologists who present educational
workshops at the Monte Vista Middle School, while flocks of
dancing sandhills assemble in the neighboring farm fields, just
east of town. Bus tours to the nearby refuge and adjacent
farmlands provide visitors with the opportunity to view this
spectacle up close and personal, with a knowledgeable local
guide. Special tours feature raptor identification, sunset trips
to view cranes and visits to closed areas of the refuge for
Crane Fest participants.
A craft fair is held in the Ski-Hi
building, which features a prominent crane mural on the outside
walls. A dinner with live entertainment, a pancake breakfast,
local restaurants and concessions at the craft fair provide
sustenance for happy crane watchers from as far away as Japan.
Motels and B & Bs fill up weeks in advance, and the
population of Monte Vista nearly doubles during the weekend of
Crane Fest. Come visit the Valley of the Cranes and enjoy their
annual spring return to one of Colorado’s most spectacularly