Chad Gideon farms between Grand Island and Kearney. Recently, he and his family bought property on the Platte River to ensure their continued access for hunting and fishing.

One of the most prominent and successful photographic pioneers was John Carbutt of Chicago, who made major advances in the materials used to create and develop film. But decades before he did that, Carbutt journeyed to Nebraska and the Platte Valley as the official photographer for an amazingly large publicity stunt by the Union Pacific Rail Company as it rushed to complete the transcontinental railroad.

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.

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.

Each spring, sandhill cranes communally roost in the braided channels of the Platte River in central Nebraska. The river channel’s shallow areas and in-stream bare sandbars provide protection from predators, allowing the cranes to rest overnight.