North American Crane Working Group


Date of this Version


Document Type



Pfeiffer, K., and P. Currier. An adaptive approach to channel management on the Platte River. In Chavez-Ramirez, F, ed. 2005. Proceedings of the Ninth North American Crane Workshop, Jan 17-20, 2003. Sacramento, California: North American Crane Working Group. Pp. 151-154.


Reproduced by permission of the NACWG.


The mission of the Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust is to protect and manage habitat in the Platte valley for whooping cranes, sandhill cranes, and other migratory birds. The plan for meeting this mission calls for the creation and maintenance of eleven habitat complexes distributed through the central Platte valley. Each habitat complex is intended to consist of 1,000 ha of wet meadows and adjacent roost habitat of open, unvegetated river channel. Reduced flows in the river have caused its channel to narrow with banks that are often heavily wooded. Formerly mobile sand bars have stabilized and support dense stands of willow (Salix spp.) and cottonwood (Populus deltoides) trees. This new type of habitat is unsuitable for roosting sandhill and whooping cranes. As a consequence, the Trust has spent the last 20+ years developing and refining manual techniques for restoring and maintaining open channel habitat. The most effective technique developed to date involves mechanically clearing woody vegetation from islands and accretion ground, followed by (often) annual disking of the sites to prevent reestablishment of vegetation. Currently, approximately 80 km of river channel are managed this way.