Must See Stops

Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located approximately 28 miles north of Oshkosh, Nebraska. The Refuge was established in 1931 to help conserve waterfowl populations. It is located at the eastern edge of the Nebraska panhandle in Garden County, on the southwestern edge of the 19,000 square mile Nebraska Sandhills.

The Sandhills are characterized by continuous grass and forb-covered dunes and swales and are considered to be the largest body of sand in the world that is not a desert. Where the swales dip below the water table, sub-irrigated meadows, marshes, and lakes have formed. In most cases, no stream systems exist between wetlands. Many lakes are maintained solely by underground water sources.

The 45,849-acre Refuge is largely grasslands dotted with hundreds of permanent, semipermanent, and temporary wetlands. It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) as part of the Crescent Lake/North Platte National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The Complex headquarters is 100 miles to the west in the city of Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

Nebraska National Forest Halsey

The Nebraska National Forest just outside Halsey, NE offers birders plenty of room to search for their next big find.  The forest features three different campgrounds and over 90,000 acres of differing terrain and ecosystems.  Because of the changing terrain of the forest you have a wonderful opportunity to see a variety of different species with well over 100 species present at varying times during the year.  From the Middle Loup River valley to the high-plains grasslands and pine forests there are countless opportunities to change viewing areas and habitats in just minutes.

Valentine National Wildlife Refuge

The 71,516-acre Valentine National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Sandhills of north-central Nebraska. The Refuge is a unique and ecologically important component of the National Wildlife Refuge System which includes over 500 refuges totaling approximately 93 million acres across the United States. The native grass prairie and wetlands found here support a diversity of wildlife. Little has changed from historic times. The Refuge was established by Congress in 1935 “as a breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.” The Refuge is home to 270 species of birds, 59 species of mammals, and 22 species of reptiles and amphibians.  

In 2005, Valentine National Wildlife Refuge was designated a Nebraska Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Audubon Society. The IBA program is an inventory of the key sites within a state that support significant numbers and high diversity of birds. The IBA program is a conservation and education effort of the National Audubon Society and has no regulatory authority. Our application was reviewed by a technical committee which commented on the high diversity of species and the large population of greater prairie chickens found on Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.  

Crane Trust and Sandhill Crane Migration

The Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center just west of Grand Island is one of the best places in the country to view the Sandhill Crane migration.  Even if it’s not migration season there are plenty of reasons for bird lovers to visit the nature center.  They offer wildlife displays, trails along the Platte River, a 35 foot observation tower, and other year-round birding options.  For anyone heading west on the Highway 2 for a birding adventure the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center should be your first stop.

Avocet Wlidlife Management Area

The management area features 188 acres of protected space, including more that 100 acres of wetlands and open water. The lake is groundwater fed and is home to a wide variety of waterfowl, including pelicans, and furbearers as well as being an important stop for migratory birds.