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Hiwassee crane viewing days set for Jan. 15-16

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The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reminds the public the 2011 Hiwassee Crane Viewing Days will be held on Jan. 15-16. 

This event celebrates the rich Native American and wildlife heritage found around the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee Rivers. Organizers plan to bring back the historic partnership with the Birchwood Community and the Birchwood School, the Cherokee Removal Memorial, and Meigs County Tourism, by providing visitors a quality educational experience.

In October, 2010, the State of Tennessee celebrated the 60th year of managing the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency records on file reveal the lands management transfer in a letter from the Tennessee Valley Authority, Biological Readjustment Division, to the Tennessee Division of Game and Fish, Department of Conservation. The letter and attached agreement established Hiwassee State Game Refuge on Chickamauga Reservoir on Oct. 29, 1940.

To celebrate 60 years of managing, the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, TWRA and partners have scheduled the 20th Anniversary of the Crane Viewing Days. The local community also has reasons to celebrate because year 2011 marks and the 80th anniversary of the near-by Birchwood School.

The well-known event, named to the Top 20 Event list by the Southeast  Tourism Society in 2002, is free. Activities are designed to feature the Native American history and the Cherokee “Trail of Tears” at the Cherokee Removal Memorial and their new educational center, located behind the Hiwassee Refuge, and a sampling of local history in the near-by Birchwood Community and their educational center for 80 years, Birchwood School.  

With them as partners, and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation and Meigs County Tourism as sponsors, the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge and TWRA plan to present an event with something for just about everybody.

On Saturday, Jan. 15, the event begins at the Birchwood School, where visitors can park and ride to the activities at the Hiwassee Refuge and the Cherokee Removal Memorial. 

During the day at the school, food and drinks will be on sell to benefit the students, while kids can enjoy special activities in the  hallways with anniversary celebration arts and crafts. In the gym at the school, Al Cecere, American Eagle Foundation and the handler of “Challenger”, will be on hand with a special surprise raptor show.  

TWRA biologists will present updates on wildlife population trends and management plans, and expert presentations on Native American history in the Hiwassee area.

The Refuge is home each year to more than 50,000 migrating Sandhill cranes and a variety of native species that include reintroduced bald and golden eagles, and whooping cranes that are part of the experimental whooping crane reintroduction.   

Last year, during the annual late winter bird count at the Hiwassee Refuge, there were 40,000 sandhill cranes using the area, but only 1,500 ducks and geese. 

On Sunday, Jan. 16, both the Hiwassee Refuge and the Cherokee Memorial will remain open for viewing wildlife and Cherokee Indian heritage memorials and displays. 

On both days TWRA, the Tennessee Aquarium, and members of the Chattanooga Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society personnel will be available with viewing scopes to provide visitors with wildlife interpretation.  

The Birchwood School, closed on Sunday, is located only a few miles off I-75 on Tennessee Highway 60, about midway between Dayton and Cleveland.  

It is only three miles from the wildlife-viewing site at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.  

The Cherokee Removal Memorial is found just to the side of the Refuge near the Tennessee River.

 For more information call 1-800-262-6704, (in state) or 931-484-9571, or go to tnwildlife.org.