Harry Strunk Lake offers canyon, sky and water vistas as well as miles of walking trails for wildlife viewing. On this loop you’ll also drive along the scenic Republican River basin to Red Willow Reservoir, offering a rich habitat for wildlife that draws birds that soar and many other animal species.
Rivers, rains and winds dissected and eroded the high tablelands south of the Platte River in central Nebraska to carve the rugged, scenic Loess Canyons. Here, in April, May and early June, lucky birders can see prairie chickens “dance” on their traditional breeding grounds.
A habitat mix of towering cottonwoods, brushy seed and fruit bearing perennials, moist bottomlands and moving water draws a mix of wildlife. Water birds may be spotted along the river and many species of woodland songbirds nest in the deciduous, ancient trees along the Republican.
The rainwater basins of Central Nebraska provide spring migration habitat for about 6 million snow geese and a million Canada geese as well as 5-7 million ducks, and well over a million Sandhill cranes. Nearly half the mallard population rests here before continuing north to nesting grounds.
The Republican River Valley is where you’ll find broad vistas of gently rolling hills carpeted with sage and long grass. Join us as we look for birds in virgin prairie and croplands, along the river and riparian wetlands, and on the shores of Harlan County Reservoir - Nebraska’s second largest lake.
Out beyond the great Midwestern cities, the land opens up and the pavement gives way to fields and streams, to prairie, rills and endless sky. Right in the center of North America’s central flyway, millions of birds of all shapes, sizes and species pass through this area every year. If you know where to look — and that’s the key — you can see an uncommon variety, and, if you’re dedicated, knowledgeable and lucky, you can often make unusual and interesting sightings.
We live here. We put together this site to help birders discover an area rich not only in birds, but in history and culture, with its own brand of inspiring scenery. As you travel each trail, we’ve included our own recommendations of some of the places you might like to stop, including good local restaurants (we eat there ourselves), places to stay and points of interest.
Each loop is a different terrain and habitat and encompasses a number of sites along the highway or secondary roads. An interactive map for each loop describes the sites, common birds and points of interest in the area. Just click on a link below to get started.
In March of 2007, several of my colleagues and some volunteers set out to do something that had not been done before, at least not along the North Platte River. We hoped to get a count of the number of Sandhill Cranes coming into roost on the North Platte River within a 3 mile stretch of the river east of the Hershey North Platte River bridge. This stretch included two miles of river on the North River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and an additional mile of river to the east on some private land that we had worked on with grant funding from the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund.
The Chicken Dance Trail is named for the the unique mating dance of this colorful species. Look for them near dawn in small groups on the leks of native prairie habitat; listen for the deep "boom" of their mating calls. The Republican River, Sandsage Prairie and Loess Canyons sections of the Chicken Dance Trail will be especially productive.