If you’re looking for a close-to-home, unique road trip, we’ve got a suggestion for you.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is hosting the 32nd Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival Jan. 14-15, 2023 (Saturday-Sunday) at the Hiwassee Refuge in Birchwood, Tennessee.
The festival is a celebration of 20,000 or more sandhill cranes that migrate through or spend the winter on or near the Hiwassee Refuge. Volunteers will be present, with spotting scopes that allow for an up-close view of not only sandhill cranes but many waterfowl and bald eagles.
Beginning in the early 1990s, the recovering population of eastern sandhill cranes began stopping at the Hiwassee Refuge on their way to and from their wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida. TWRA has been managing the refuge for more than 60 years for waterfowl, and it provides sandhill cranes a combination of feeding and shallow water roosting habitat. Thousands of birds now spend the entire winter at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers.
In addition to the sandhill crane festival, visitors can learn more about the Native American history of the area.
The nearby Cherokee Removal Memorial will feature Native American folklore specialists. They will present artifacts and objects used in everyday life by Native American inhabitants in the Hiwassee River area. Visitors can also view cranes and other birds from the shelter house above the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee Rivers.
This free event runs 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily and includes shuttle transportation from the Birchwood Community Center, where all guests must park, to the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park and the Hiwassee Refuge.
For more information, visit https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/birds/sandhill-crane-festival.html.
Visitors can also enjoy free shows from the American Eagle Foundation and musical guests and Nashville recording artists, Second Nature and The Mount LeConte Jug Band. Vendors and educators will also be available at all three locations.
The Hiwassee Refuge comprises about 6,000 acres. The Birchwood Community Center is only three miles from the wildlife-viewing site at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. The Cherokee Removal Memorial is adjacent to the refuge near the Tennessee River. The Hiwassee Refuge and Cherokee Removal Memorial are open to the public year-round and visitors are welcome during normal operating hours.