Few modern species can lay claim to older origins than the sandhill crane. Each spring, 80 percent of the mid-continent population spends a few weeks along the central stretch of the Platte River in Nebraska. But this unprecedented concentration of birds on the Platte represents a challenged ecosystem.

While surface water development led the early history of irrigation in Nebraska, it became common for farmers to tap the wealth of water below ground beginning in the 1930s.

Many early bridge builders constructed embankments out into the Platte River, shortening the total length of the bridge and reducing construction costs and labor. The constrained banks make the river more narrow, creating faster currents and deeper channels.

Today we may think nothing of driving over a bridge. One hundred and fifty years ago, it wasn’t so easy. Some of the first bridges across the Platte were made of sod.

For two decades Fort Kearny served as a symbol of American westward expansion, an outpost on the frontier as settlers headed west.

Twice a year, the world’s largest remaining wild population of endangered whooping cranes makes the 2,500-mile journey between breeding grounds in Canada’s Northwest Territories and wintering grounds on the Texas Gulf Coast, using the Great Plains as their migratory corridor. Biologist are tracking these rare birds to learn more about their migration.

From the time of the first agricultural societies, farmers have experimented with various ways to get enough water to their crops.

A community works to conserve wildlife habitat along the central Platte River in Nebraska.

Wet meadows are groundwater-fed wetlands within larger grassland environments. Along the Platte…

The third day of February dawned normally for Brice Krohn, senior director at the Crane Trust. The conservation group started burning a few tree piles on their property near Alda, Neb., along the central Platte River. But it wasn’t long before he and his staff noticed the water around in the channels around their property rising.