We’re on the road again, heading from New York to California. It’s been a while since we’ve updated our travel stories, but we came across a site that was so impressive the blog had to come out of retirement.
This is one of the top ten attractions near Bismarck North Dakota, although it is actually in Steele, over 40 miles from Bismarck.
It’s been in place since 1999 when local farmer and ironworker James Miller was enlisted to create a sculpture representing the bird life of the region.
Without further ado, here is Sandy. Tada!
Sandy is the world’s largest sand hill crane. She looks like she’s about 40 feet tall, but her smaller live cousins are 3 to 4 feet tall, with wingspan to 7 feet. These cranes—not this specific one, but the species—have existed on Earth for 2,500,000 years unchanged, the oldest living species of birds.
This area of Kidder County is “one of America’s premier birding hotspots,” with three Globally Important Bird Areas (GIBAs) and nesting spots for endangered piping plovers. They have grassland sparrows, raptors, waterfowl and shorebirds, with a stop for an avid birder. The cranes tend to visit glacial potholes. We’re moving from the glacial lakes of New York to the glacial potholes of North Dakota. We passed a number of these small lakes or ponds as we drove across the state.
The World’s Largest Sandhill Crane foundation maintains the site quite nicely. They also have a small garden showing some of the area’s native plants. Notice how old wine bottles are put to use for watering.
Wait! There’s more! As we continued west through North Dakota we couldn’t miss Salem Sue, a giant Holstein cow guarding a hillside overlooking the highway and the small town of New Salem. She is 38 feet tall and 50 feet long, cost $40,000 to build in 1974 and is very lifelike, complete with dew claws above her hooves and ductwork on her udders. She honors the dairymen of the region. The high school sports teams are the mighty Holsteins.
Sandy and Sue remind us of some of the big things we saw in Australia, as well as a tour we took with the kids and Gilda in 1998 from New York to the Midwest, stopping for photographs with every big animal we could find…and there were a lot. So many that the kids were a little tired of the whole idea by the time we reached Wisconsin. My mother’s cousin owned the Ellis Big Chicken Restaurant in Marinette. This was the end of the road for our big animal tour of 1998. None too soon as far as the kids were concerned.
Next we’re headed to the northern national parks and hope to see other big animals, only live.