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Valley of the Cranes by V.M. Simmons

Review by Nancy Ward

Wildlife – March 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Valley of the Cranes – Exploring Colorado’s San Luis Valley
Essay by Virginia McConnell Simmons
Photography by Robert Rozinski and Wendy Shattil
Published in 1988 by Roberts Rinehart, Inc. Publishers
ISBN 0-911797-41-6

EVEN THOUGH ONLY a small portion of Valley of the Cranes is devoted to sandhill and whooping cranes, the introduction by Rozinski and Shattil explains the name of the book. The sound of the migrating birds above Saguache Park at the northwesterly corner of the Valley was the inspiration.

Words and photos harmonize in this attractive volume. Virginia Simmons describes the formation of the San Luis Valley, its geology, flora, fauna, and history. Simmons’ colorful essay pulls readers into the heart of the Valley and its beauty. (Perhaps that’s due to her translucent writing, perhaps because she’s an SLV native, or maybe some of both).

Between the covers is a diverse collection of photographs — aspen trees in fall-colored regalia, blue and white columbines at Schinzel Flats near South Fork, golden banner flowers, red claret cup cactus, a Great Sand Dunes sunrise, mule deer, a bison, bald eagles, moonrise over Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak, American bittern, and a sky cluttered with ducks.

There’s more — clouds, ponds, rivers and waterfalls, mountain peaks and geologic majesty. A fog-shrouded Alamosa Refuge is superb, along with shots of the Monte Vista Refuge and huge flocks of SLV visitors and greater sandhill cranes.

“If our work encourages you to explore and experience the Valley of the Cranes then you, too, may fall under its spell and return again and again,” the photographers say.

Bringing this book to reality required not only a collaboration of photographers and writer, but also an alliance of financial and other resources of various community organizations and businesses in the San Luis Valley.

An inspiring combination of poetic prose and stirring photos, Valley of the Cranes is an excellent “coffee table book” — for those who love the Valley and for those who only dream of spending time in such a place.

–Nancy Ward