Oh, Sandy!

Steele, North Dakota
World’s largest sandhill crane (Sandy)

A quick history of Sandy the sandhill crane

A quick history of Sandy the sandhill crane

In the race to build the superlative beast, it appears that the contest for world’s largest sandhill crane is down to a field of one. The 40-foot tall sheet metal avian (“Sandy”)  stands watching for tasty cars passing by on Interstate 94 (North Dakota’s big beast highway) in Steele, North Dakota. Easily visible from the highway, Sandy seems to have nested in an unlikely location. Unlike the fanfare for her bovine and bison counterparts, there are no billboards or gated parks that indicate her home. Sandy stands at the end of the giant gravel parking lot of the Lone Steer Motel Restaurant and Lounge, a place that would look at home in one of those movies where the car breaks down and you have to spend a creepy night. Sandy’s grassy plot is not conspicuously marked – there’s no entrance booth or path, just a couple of wooden kiosks describing the life and migratory habits of the sandhill crane. The park is populated with local plants, bushes and trees that were donated or purchased through a grant from the North Dakota Forestry Department.

I would be a quick snack for a real crane of this size

I would be a quick snack for a real crane of this size

Sandy is relatively young – she was built by James Miller of Arena, North Dakota between 1998 and 1989 in a shop where he does ironwork. The crane looks like a crane was required to assemble her – she (he?) was built in sections (head and neck, body and legs) and then welded together and placed on a flatbed. Sandy appears to have a strong secure foothold, an important feature for a top-heavy 4 1/2 ton metal sculpture. She is accurately painted, a fine representative of her species. Although much smaller than Sandy, sandhill cranes can attain a height of 4 feet with a wingspan of almost 7 feet, and live to the ripe old age of 25. Cranes have evolved very little over millions of years – they are the oldest birds identified from fossil records.

Sandy stands at an approximately even distance to the world’s largest buffalo in Jamestown to the east and Salem Sue, world’s largest cow to the west in New Salem. You can spend the better part of the day driving across North Dakota to see the beasts in the land of the giants, ending the adventure on the Enchanted Highway, a stretch of road populated with huge metal sculptures. They say everything’s bigger in Texas, but it’s obvious that North Dakota puts the burden of proof on the Lone Star State. C’mon guys – you have some catching up to do.

World’s Largest Sandhill Crane
615 Mitchell Avenue North
Steele, ND 58482
GPS Coordinates: 46°51’41.96″N 99°54’47.43″W

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