Dale Saunders Crane Sanctuary Comic

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Dale Saunders was a simple barley farmer who lived by himself in Alaska’s Susitna Valley. With a view of majestic Denali from his farm, his home was a tiny log cabin that he built himself in 1957. He didn’t have running water – only an outhouse!

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His life was in tune with the seasons: spring, summer, and fall followed the cycle of plowing, planting, weeding, and harvesting. His farm was a “snack stop” for many Sandhill cranes making their journey each spring to their breeding grounds, and their migration back in the fall. They loved the leftover barley and peaceful sanctuary of the farm, and Dale loved them like family.

For over 40 years, Dale planted barley and waited for the cranes to visit. One day, Dale got sick. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and told he could no longer keep farming. His dying wish was for Great Land Trust to take care of his farm forever and continue to plant barley every year for his cranes. Now open to the public, the Dale Saunders Crane Sanctuary will always be a home the cranes can return to.

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Next time you see a Sandhill crane, think of Dale.

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Getting there: Turn right (east) from the Parks Highway onto Susitna River Road (or East Petersville Road) at Milepost 114.8. After 1.5 miles, turn right onto Bradley Road. After a half-mile take another right to Saunders Road. About a half-mile down Saunders road is a 75-acre barley field. No admission; please enjoy the birds from the road.