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Sandhill Cranes, Cherokee History and Canyon Hike

December 16, 2023 @ 10:30 am - December 17, 2023 @ 1:00 pm

This event was rescheduled due to rain.

New dates to join us are: Dec. 16-17 (register below) and for Jan. 27-28, 2024 (register HERE).

Eco-A again offers our signature event with Quentin Bass, recently retired 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.

The Tennessee-Hiwassee river confluence was a Native American center for thousands of years, and was an important hub for early American interstate transportation and commerce (which focused on major rivers before trains and automobiles), and a critically strategic military site. It was a guarded boundary between the United States and the Cherokee Nation, and by the late 1830’s became the major point of departure for the Cherokee people, forced to leave their homelands on what became known as the “Trail of Tears” trek to Oklahoma. Quentin Bass will share stories of the people and times, including about Sam Houston, who lived with the Cherokee at Hiwassee Island, across from our meeting location.

Today, this area still serves 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.

Sandhill Cranes are ancient birds who have likely been migrating north and south annually on the North American continent for 10 million years, long before humans emerged from African savannahs. If you’ve ever heard the Cranes’ mellifluous, 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, is worth the visit. There are many birds found along the rivers, including sea gulls, cormorants, and even white pelicans. Friends of Eco-A have donated a high-powered spotting scope which allows us stunning, up-close views of the cranes. 

Saturday morning at 10:30 we’ll meet for a Cherokee history talk with Quentin Bass and tour the Blythe Ferry Memorial site. Then we’ll spend time watching the Sandhill Cranes at the nearby preserve. We’ll provide drinks and snacks but you may want to bring a picnic lunch. 

Sunday we’ll lead an optional hike in the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Forest, located just north and east of Chattanooga.  

Fees: 1 day – $35, both days – $50 

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

To register (RSVP) click HERE 

Details and directions sent to registered participants.  Limit 16.  A donation of $20 or more helps support our programs.


December 16, 2023 @ 10:30 am
December 17, 2023 @ 1:00 pm