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Along Wildlife Drive





STAFFORD -- It's the stuff of fabled riches, and for bird-watching aficionados, it pays off nearly every time.

But I was on a quest to find the endangered whooping cranes, which had been sighted in fairly big numbers in the Big Salt Marsh at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. There were three there at the time, briefly, but they were little more than white spots on the water.

Quivira, incidentally, is a place first mentioned by explorer Francisco Vðsquez de Coronado in 1541, as he searched for the mythical "Seven Cities of Gold."

Today, its reputation as a stopping-off point for migrating waterfowl is legend. Whooping cranes frequently stop as they fly from Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Canada to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Corpus Christi, Texas.

But there's so much more there, including ducks and geese, often by the tens of thousands during the fall migration. Pelicans and shorebirds alike are frequent visitors.

Quivira encompasses more than 22,000 acres, with roads linking the Little Salt Marsh with its larger counterpart at the northern edge of the refuge.

Wildlife drive is a popular second of the refuge road system, dissecting many of the pools of water as well as being located adjacent to the Big Salt Marsh.

Details and maps of the Quivira are available at www.fws.gov/refuge/Quivira.