First Crane Sighting Contest

Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition (CCCC) is pleased to announce the results of the 2024 First Crane Sighting Contest!

This year we received more than 20 sightings of Sandhill Cranes in the Yampa Valley!

The returning cranes were first reported in Craig and then West Moffat County. The very first crane sighting on March 7 was comparable to previous years.

Even with the continued snow through the latter part of March, the cranes returned right on schedule. Cranes will seek out areas with exposed soils and melting wetlands to find food while they wait for the snow to melt.

In addition to the Grand Prize (given to the person who spots and documents the very first crane seen in the Yampa Valley), the First Crane Sighting Contest awards a prize to each individual with the photo or video of the earliest sighting in West Routt, North Routt, South Routt, Steamboat Springs, Craig and West Moffat.

2024 Contest Winners by Zone

Entries with an asterisk (*) indicate that a photo is included in the photo gallery below.

Grand Prize:

3/7/23 at 5:51pm: Randy Neece spotted a solitary Sandhill Crane next to the Yampa Valley Golf Course in Craig with Canada Geese.*

West Moffat:

3/8/24 at noon: Justin Rehfeld reported cranes flying overhead near the Little Snake River at the Wyoming state line.


3/12/24 at 4:51pm: Gerard Geis spotted 2 Sandhill Cranes in the pasture outside the Craig Water Treatment Plant.

West Routt:

3/19/24 at 7:48am: Chad Ducklow reported that a 4th grader took a photo of 4 cranes on the way to school.

South Routt:

3/20/24 at 10:24am: Kristi Schalnus reported cranes in a field in Yampa near Finger Rock.

Steamboat Springs:

3/21/24 at 5:03PM: Christie Stepan photographed Sandhill Cranes soaring over Sleeping Giant School. Her son spotted them while swinging at the playground.

Other Reports

CCCC appreciates all the submissions that we received during the course of the contest. The reports help us learn more about the areas cranes use as they return to the Yampa Valley and about when they are returning every year. This contest helps us with our mission of conserving and protecting Greater Sandhill Cranes and their habitat in Northwest Colorado. While we are unable to post all of the photos and videos that we received, we do want to recognize all those who sent in crane reports during the course of the contest. Listed below are all the other participants in the 2024 First Crane Sighting Contest.

Justin Rehfeld on 3/14/24 at 3:00 PM near Loudy-Simpson Park in Craig.

Jason Musser on 3/15/24 at 6:30 PM near the Bear River Ranch in Sunbeam.

Johanna (Joey) Chadwick on 3/18/24 at 4:32 PM on the west side of South Ranney Street in Craig, Colorado (near Loudy-Simpson Park), just south of the railroad tracks.

Carter Chadwick on 3/18/24 at 4:38 PM on the East side of South Ranney Street in Craig.

Joey Salazar on 3/18/24 at 1:20 pm saw a crane flying north of Hayden at the One Mile Bridge.

Tracy LeClair on 3/19/24 at 5:00 PM in a horse pasture near the intersection of Highway 40 and CR 29.

Cassidy Gorham on 3/19/24 at 5:25 PM off of Highway 40 on the west side of Yampa River State Park.*

Tori Pingley on 3/19/24 at 5:41 PM near Outlaw Honey, west of Hayden.

Allen Hischke on 3/20/24 at 2:30 PM in the pasture field south of the railroad tracks on the west side of Ranney Street in Craig.

Kathy Simpson on 3/20/24 at 11:30 AM over Sand Wash (west of Maybell) in Moffat County.*

Begee Biggs on 3/21/24 at 4:15 PM in the field west of (no The)Yampa River State Park.

Karen Mack on 03/22/2024 at 5:08 PM on Highway 40, at Mile Marker 81, west of Craig.*

Rachel Sutterby on 3/23/24 at 7:33 AM flying overhead near Elkhead Resevoir.

Cheryl Jensen on 3/24/24 at 3:30 PM saw two Sandhill Cranes south of Highway 40 at Milepost 100, almost exactly one mile west of the rest area.*

Cat Peloghitis on 3/26/24 at 10:12 AM took a video of cranes dancing in Craig at mile marker 7 on CR29.

Joey Salazar on 3/27/24 at 10:00 AM saw many cranes on Morgan Bottom Road.

Thanks to all of you who sent in your first crane sightings!

We hope to see you at our 13th annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival, August 29 – September 1st, 2024.