March Fieldtrip Ideas-Sandhill Cranes

March Means Sandhill Cranes! Latest information here (3-18-21)

by Sue Parrish

Sandhill Cranes by Larry Umthun

Sandhill Cranes by Larry Umthun

Warmer weather, greener hills, and longer days all mean it’s time to take a day trip to find Sandhill Cranes. Watching these giant, prehistoric birds come in for a graceful landing as they give their loud creaking calls to each other is an experience never forgotten. Here are several areas within a 1 ½ hour drive where they are usually found during March.
First and foremost, is Othello, which is famous for it’s annual Sandhill Crane festival. Although the festival is virtual this year, you can still hop in your car and head up there for an adventure on your own. To get to Othello, take Hwy 395 north from Pasco, then Hwy 17 to Mesa. This will lead you past Scooteny Reservoir, which is a good place to stop and look for not only cranes, but waterfowl and shorebirds. Also investigate a few miles of Paradise Rd, which runs east up a hill immediately across Hwy 17 from Scooteny. There are often cranes in the cornfields on both sides of the road.
Continue north on Hwy 17 and once in Othello area, head for McManamon road, which is west and north of Othello. To get there, turn left of off 17 onto Cunnigham/Main Street. Turn right onto Broadway, which becomes McManamon. So many roads to explore in the area! One choice is to head north on S. Morgan Lake road which leads to areas that often have many cranes. An overlook found by turning R when you reach a T is especially good. Or you can stay on McManamon Rd, heading west for several miles and then turning L onto Barton Rd. This heads south towards Royal Lake. Take a R on Grant and then then L on Byers. There are often of Cranes here as you overlook Royal Lake. Continue on Byers road which becomes Road 14.8. At the intersection with Road D SE turn L which will connect you to Hwy 26. Turn L and you’ll be heading back to Othello. Check out any cornfields, which cranes love, as well as the potholes along the highway. Besides waterfowl, there are often Stilts and Avocets to be found. For more info, contact the Crane Festival at 509-989-5606, or Facebook as Othello Sandhill Crane Festival, or And thanks to MerryLynn Denny for the above detailed directions to her hot spots.
A closer spot to find Cranes is in the W Richland area along Snively Rd. To get there take the Hwy 240 exit off Highway 12 in Richland. Continue on Hwy 240 past Horn Rapids Golf Course to Twin Bridges Road. Turn L onto Twin Bridges and continue west to N Snively Road. Turn R onto Snively and drive slowly through the corn fields and there should be tons of cranes. Make sure to roll down the windows, as hearing cranes is as fun as seeing them.
Last but not least, check out the Ladd Marsh area SE of La Grande. From Foothills Road east of town off of I84, cranes can usually be spotted in the marsh below. Or head to the other side of the highway and walk through the paths of the marsh. Either way, there should be not only cranes but lots of interesting waterfowl. So get out there and enjoy the wonder of cranes. Good Luck!

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes by Larry Umthun

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