Interpretive walks to look at the 22-story Wind River canopy crane will be conducted most Saturdays this summer at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The tours, which are free and open to everyone, start from the Whistlepunk Trailhead in the Wind River Ranger District, a part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Walking tours (there are no lifts in the crane) will be conducted Saturdays through Sept. 6 with the exception of July 5 and Aug. 16, when no tours are scheduled, and Aug. 2, when only the 10 a.m. tour is planned. For directions and information call (509) 427-3200 or (509) 427-3349, or stop at the chamber of commerce office in Stevenson, Wash., which is about 30 minutes from the crane site.
The Wind River crane, the largest canopy crane operating in the world, can clear trees as tall as 220 feet, and lower scientists in a gondola into the forest below. Scientists need access to the tops of trees and the tips of branches in order to better understand such things as how forests absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, provide shelter for wildlife and are affected by pollutants and pests.
What is learned could lead to better management of forests in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere, according to the three partners operating the crane, the University of Washington, the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
The Saturday tour includes a walk through a 500-year-old Douglas fir forest down a wheelchair-accessible gravel road, views of the crane from the ground (only researchers go up in the crane) and chances to see examples of forest management practices and learn the difference between second-growth and old-growth forests.
The area around the crane is off-limits to the public except during the guided tours. The public may, however, walk the part of the interpretive trail that is outside the crane site on their own.
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