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Hiwassee Refuge Crane Days Festival Set for January 15-16

Thursday, January 06, 2011 | 02:00am
CROSSVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) will be hosting the 20th Crane Viewing Days on Jan. 15-16 at the Hiwassee Refugee. The Hiwassee Refuge is celebrating its 70th anniversary of being managed by what is now the TWRA.
The Crane Viewing Days return to January dates this winter and in recent years was named as one of the Southeast Tourism Top 20 Events. Along with the wildlife viewing and displays at the Hiwassee Refuge site, other programs and activities will be held at the nearby Birchwood School and Cherokee Removal Memorial.
The free event is co-sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation and the Tennessee Ornithological Society. Along with the wildlife viewing, activities are designed to feature the Native American history and the Cherokee “Trail of Tears” at the Cherokee Removal Memorial and their new educational center, located behind the Hiwassee Refuge, and a sampling of local history in the Birchwood community and their educational center for 80 years, Birchwood School. 
“This event is a real educational experience and this year event organizers have placed a special emphasis on providing more programs and activities for the kids,” said Dan Hicks, TWRA Region III Information and Education Coordinator. “Children will have an opportunity to learn about native and endangered species wildlife, Cherokee heritage, and local folklore. Kids activities will be available at the Birchwood Elementary School and hosted by their staff.”
On Saturday Jan 15, Birchwood School will open at 8 a.m. when children’s activities, breakfast, and related displays will start the day. Special presentations are scheduled at the school’s gym starting at 10 a.m. with opening ceremonies. Lunch will be available in cafeteria after 11 a.m. and free parking will be available at the school with shuttle buses to the Refuge and Cherokee Memorial, provided by Blue Moon Cruises.
At 10:30 a.m., Kirk Miles, TWRA Region III Wildlife Program Manager, is scheduled present a special report celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) program in Tennessee. The grant program, created in 2000, is designed to provide critical funding in support of fish and wildlife species that are rare or declining. Miles presentation will explain Tennessee’s use of the State Wildlife Grants, the first significant funding to manage and conserve non-game fish and wildlife in our state.
A Native American Heritage presenter, Sky Wolf, of the Over Hill Cherokee Nation of the Cherokee Descendants, will present a program featuring Native American Heritage in the Hiwassee River area at noon.
The American Eagle Foundation is scheduled to present a live raptor show at 1 p.m. and features some of the many birds of prey rehabilitated by their team after being found injured across the nation. Some of the birds cannot be released back into the wild and are part of the American Eagle Foundation’s show at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. 
Starting at 2:30 p.m., local traditional music expert, Tom Morgan, will hold a “hands on” session for kids where the children may hold and play various traditional musical instruments. At 3 p.m., Morgan, Lynne Haas, and Ray Branham will play some of the old traditional songs that include western and bluegrass influences. The 2nd Nature Band from Nashville will perform at 4 p.m. and end the activities at the school.
On both Jan. 15 and 16, starting at 8 a.m., members of the Cherokee Nation will be on hand to provide visitors with educational information on Native American heritage including numerous artifacts at the Cherokee Removal Memorial. Displays from the TWRA, Tennessee Wildlife Federation, the Tennessee Ornithological Society, and Blue Moon Cruises will be set up at the Hiwassee Refuge’s educational building. TWRA staff and TOS bird experts will be on hand to provide wildlife interpretation with spotting scopes for those visitors there to enjoy the thousands of sandhill cranes, reintroduced whooping cranes and various native wildlife species found at the area.
Activities at Birchwood School will only take place on Saturday, but visitors may park and board shuttle buses to the Refuge and Memorial at the school on both days due to limited parking at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.
The Hiwassee Refuge is a rich part of TWRA’s history. TWRA records reveal the lands management transfer in a letter from the Tennessee Valley Authority, Biological Readjustment Division, to the Tennessee Division of Game and Fish, Department of Conservation. The letter and attached agreement established Hiwassee State Game Refuge on Chickamauga Reservoir on Oct. 29, 1940.
The Hiwassee Refuge has the largest winter flock of sandhill cranes in the southeast, outside of Florida. Visitors will also be able to view several other species of wildlife, including the occasional whooping crane. More than 4,000 persons visited the last Crane Viewing Days that were held in January on a bitterly cold weekend in 2008.
The Hiwassee Refuge comprises about 6,000 acres at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers. The Birchwood School is only three miles from the wildlife-viewing site at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. The Cherokee Removal Memorial is found just to the side of the refuge near the Tennessee River.
For more information call 1-800-262-6704, (in state) or 931-484-9571, or
go to
(above photo)
Wildlife viewing will once again be a big part of the Crane Days Festival Jan. 15-16 at the Hiwassee Refuge.

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