Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Sandhill Cranes, Cherokee History

February 1, 2020 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm


Hiwassee Island once held a Cherokee village that adopted Sam Houston, now hosts seasonal gatherings of Sandhill Cranes. Photo by Kathryn Kolb.

This event is full – now taking wait list. We have seen a lot of interest for this walk and are considering opening up another session on Sunday, Feb.2. Please let us know if you are interested via the RSVP page. 

It’s amazing that places that were once the strategic centers of commerce, trade, war and politics–places that reared the men and women who wrote critical chapters of our nation’s history–are now quiet, barely noticed places along backwaters and backroads.

Join Eco-A and Quentin Bass, Archaeologist, Heritage Manager and Tribal Liaison for the Cherokee National Forest, on a day-long visit to a special area near the intersection of the Tennessee and Hiwassee Rivers a little west of Cleveland, TN. This area was a Native American center for thousands of years, was important for interstate transportation (which focused on major rivers before trains and automobiles), and was critical as a strategic military location. It became a guarded boundary between the United States and the Cherokee Nation, and by the late 1830’s it became the major point of departure  for the Cherokee people who were forced to leave their homelands on the “Trail of Tears.”

Though off-the-beaten path for most Americans today, this area now serves again as a critical travel hub and primary gathering location for — thousands of Sandhill Cranes! The Eastern North American band of Sandhills that nest and summer near the Great Lakes and in southern Canada, fly south to the Hiwassee and often further, flying directly over the City of Atlanta, to winter in south Georgia and northern Florida. However, since 2014, a great many of the Sandhills are now staying through the winter at the Hiwassee Refuge site (possibly as a response to global warming?). If you’ve ever heard the Cranes’ mellifluously haunting call, you know there is no other sound like it. The air for miles is filled with this magical sound, simply being present to hear it, and understand its magnitude, is worth the drive.

Our day will begin with a tour and talk at the Blythe Ferry Memorial site, then we’ll spend time watching the cranes, which tend to forage in small family groups, sometimes couples, and sometimes groups of “eligible” singles, gathering in larger groups for the flight north. Cranes are ancient birds who have likely been migrating up and down the North American continent for 10 million years, long before humans emerged from African savannahs.

Quentin Bass at Trail of Tears Memorial at Bythe Ferry

After lunch in Dayton, where the famous Scopes Monkey Trial was held in 1925, we’ll visit other nearby historic sites, such as the grave of Revolutionary War Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs, who also served as Agent for the Cherokee at the Hiwassee Garrison. His son became the Governor of Ohio, and his grandson married the daughter of the principle Cherokee Chief and moved west with the Cherokee during the forced removal to Oklahoma.

From the north side of the river we’ll see Hiwassee Island, visited by DeSoto and where Sam Houston lived with the Cherokee, and Quentin will share stories of the people and times. There are many interesting birds found here as well, many shore birds such as sea gulls and cormorants, and there is a good-sized colony of white pelicans.

$35 (does not include lunch) – Limit 14

Note: It’s about 2.5 hours drive from Atlanta, for those wishing to stay overnight nearby, we recommend accommodations near Chattanooga, Cleveland, or Dayton, TN. 

To register (RSVP) click HERE  – Details and directions sent to registered participants.             

A donation of $15 or more helps support our programs.



February 1, 2020
10:00 am - 5:00 pm