2024 Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival
NASHVILLE --- The 33rd Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival is set for Jan. 13-14, 2024 (Saturday-Sunday) at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, and Birchwood Community Center.
The festival celebrates the thousands of sandhill cranes that stopover or spend the winter on or near the Hiwassee Refuge. It is also an opportunity to focus attention on the rich heritage of the state and the Native American history of the area.
This free event runs 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (ET) each day and includes shuttle transportation from the Birchwood Community Center to the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park and the Hiwassee Refuge. Volunteers will be on-hand with spotting scopes that allow for an up close view of wildlife including sandhill cranes ,bald eagles, and possibly a glimpse of the endangered whooping cranes which also migrate through the area.
The nearby Cherokee Removal Memorial will feature Native American folklore specialists. They will present artifacts and objects used in everyday life by Native American inhabitants in the Hiwassee River area. Visitors can also view cranes and other birds from the shelter house where the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers meet.
Popular shows from the American Eagle Foundation will also return for another year at the Birchwood Community Center. Special programs, a children’s craft room, and quilt-raffle tickets will also be available. Nashville recording artists, Second Nature and The Mount LeConte Jug Band will perform. Vendors and educators will also be available at all locations. The cafeteria, which opens at 7 a.m., will be in operation throughout the day with food items for purchase.
In addition to the American Eagle Foundation’s live raptor performance and other returning guests, nationally acclaimed author and speaker, Brian Fox Ellis will be presenting during both days. He will also present at an exclusive dinner and appearance on Friday, Jan. 12 from 6-9 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Decatur being sponsored by Meigs County, Decatur Chamber of Commerce. More information on the festival and tickets for the special appearance is available here.
The Birchwood Community Center is only three miles from the wildlife-viewing site at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. The Cherokee Removal Memorial is adjacent to the refuge near the Tennessee River. The Hiwassee Refuge and Cherokee Removal Memorial are open to the public year-round, and visitors are welcome during normal operating hours.
Beginning in the early 1990s, the recovering population of eastern sandhill cranes began stopping at the Hiwassee Refuge on their way to and from their wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida. TWRA has been managing the 6,000 acre refuge for more than 60 years for wildlife and waterfowl. It provides sandhill cranes a combination of feeding and shallow water roosting habitat, and thousands of birds now spend the entire winter in the area.