By Steve Adair, Ph.D.
The Platte River has long been recognized as one of America's great travel corridors. During the 18th century, French fur traders traveled the river to trade with the Pawnee and Otto native tribes. In the 19th century the Platte entered our frontier history as a part of the Oregon and Mormon trails. Early settlers utilized the river's fresh water, wooded campsites, and abundant fish and game as they made their way west in search of their fortunes.
The Platte River is also one of the great travel corridors for our continent's waterfowl. Few places on earth match the spectacle of migration that occurs on the Platte River each year. People travel from all over the world to witness firsthand the millions of ducks, geese, and cranes that descend on the river each spring to rest and refuel before continuing their journey north to prairie and arctic breeding grounds.
Approximately half a million sandhill cranes descend on the Platte River in central Nebraska. This congregation represents 80 percent of the world's population of sandhills, the largest gathering of cranes in the world.