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Each spring, formations of Sandhill Cranes crisscross the skies along Nebraska’s Platte River in one of the last great migratory spectacles on the North American continent. From across the globe, tens of thousands of visitors gather to witness a land transformed, “wild with birds.” But the central Platte River system is witness to even more than this wondrous annual event. It is also an abiding source of natural, agricultural, and economic life in three states as an icon of western history and as a place of wonder. In This River Beneath the Sky, Doreen Pfost seamlessly blends memoir and nature writing, tracking the Platte River valley for one calendar year, ushering readers through its diverse and changing landscape and the plants, animals, and humans that call the ecosystem home.

From serving as a tour guide for visitors who come to see the sandhill crane migration to monitoring the population count on a bluebird trail, from exploring the human settlements surrounding the Platte River to wading the river with biologists, Pfost immerses herself in the rhythm and life of the area. Along with Pfost’s personal experiences of the river, she explores the river’s history, the land- and water-use choices that were made decades ago and their repercussions that must now be mitigated if cranes—and other species—are to survive and flourish, and the legislative and scientific efforts to preserve the diverse species and their essential habitat.

Doreen Pfost has been a Rowe Sanctuary volunteer since 2005,and she never tires of watching sunrises and sunsets on the Platte River. While living in Kearney, Nebraska, she earned a Masters degree with a creative writing emphasis at University of Nebraska-Kearney. Her studies and her explorations along the Platte led to the idea for a book about this endlessly fascinating river. Now living in western Wisconsin, she returns to Nebraska several times a year and is at work on a history of Platte River conservation.

“This articulate and compelling account of the history of crane country in Nebraska follows the seasons over a landscape that hosts in spring the planet’s greatest gathering of cranes. Doreen Pfost elegantly weaves together the story of these magnificent ambassadors for things wild and free in a part of our planet that humans have transformed in recent centuries, but where ancient wildlife spectacles still happen.”—George Archibald, cofounder of the International Crane Foundation
“Doreen Pfost’s personal homage to Nebraska’s Platte River is a powerful collection of twelve essays encompassing a year, bounded by its spring crane migration. They reveal a Willa Cather–like affection for the place and its people and an Aldo Leopold–like capacity to describe its wildlife, especially the iconic sandhill cranes.”—Paul A. Johnsgard, author of Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year
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