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Hiwassee Refuge to host Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival

Photo by Pixabay • Thousands of sandhill cranes overwinter at Hiwassee Refuge.

From Staff Reports

The 31st edition of the annual Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival is set for Jan. 15-16 (Saturday-Sunday) at the Hiwassee Refuge and Birchwood Community Center.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, extra precautions have been made resulting in reduced indoor functions. There will be two short presentations by the American Eagle Foundation each day at the community center and there will be no other entertainment or presentations as in past years. There will be limited vendors and food service will be available each day beginning at 7 a.m. The main focus of this year’s festival is simply enjoying the sandhill cranes and spending time outdoors.

Olin Chlor Alkali is the primary sponsor of the festival. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is once again partnering with the Cherokee Removal Memorial and the Birchwood Area Society Improvement Council to host the festival. There will be an increase in the number of shuttles to the Cherokee Removal Memorial and the Hiwassee Refuge.  

The festival is a celebration of the thousands of sandhill cranes that migrate through or spend the winter on and around the Hiwassee Refuge in Birchwood as well as an opportunity to focus attention on the rich wildlife heritage of the state and the Native American history of the area.  

The nearby Cherokee Removal Memorial will feature Native American folklore specialists. They will present artifacts and objects used in everyday life by Native American inhabitants in the Hiwassee River area.

Along with the wildlife viewing at the refuge, wildlife and birding experts will be on site. They will provide visitors with a unique educational experience by sharing information and viewing scopes. The festival will conclude by 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit

The Hiwassee Refuge comprises about 6,000 acres. The Birchwood Community Center is only three miles from the wildlife-viewing site at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.  The Cherokee Removal Memorial is adjacent to the refuge near the Tennessee River. The Hiwassee Refuge and Cherokee Removal Memorial are open to the public year-round and visitors are welcome during normal operating hours.