One of the true natural gems of Fairbanks is Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge.
Located on the northern edge of the city about two miles from downtown Fairbanks, Creamer’s Field offers visitors and residents alike a true quality outdoor experience without leaving the confines of the Golden Heart City.
The environmentally diverse wildlife refuge is a safe haven for migratory birds and other wildlife as well as an oasis for people who want to spend a few quiet minutes or even hours outdoors.
The refuge was purchased from Creamer’s Dairy through a community-wide fundraising campaign more than 50 years ago and is now part of a large complex that includes the farmhouse and gift shop and Creamer’s Dairy barns. It also houses the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Fairbanks offices.
With the support of the Fairbanks community, the Friends of Creamer’s Field conducts programs throughout the year at the refuge. The most popular programs are conducted in the summer and fall months.
The nonprofit organization run by volunteers serves as steward of the state-owned refuge in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The Friends of Creamer’s Field website states: “Our Mission: Inspiring environmental stewardship and lifelong learning through experience, awareness and appreciation of the natural and historical resources of Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge.”
There are three main hiking/walking trails at Creamer’s Field and trail maps are available at the visitor center.
The Boreal Forest Trail is the most popular of the three trails, taking you on a 1.5-mile journey featuring at least 17 points of interest. The Farm Road Trail and the Seasonal Wetlands Trail go out into the adjacent fields where the migratory geese, cranes and swans frolic during the spring and fall.
The Friends of Creamer’s Field offer volunteer-naturalist nature walks at 10 am. Monday through Saturday, June 1 to Sept. 1, departing from the visitor center. A guided hike also takes place at 7 p.m. every Wednesday.
The walks generally use the Boreal Forest Trail, but sometimes use the other trails depending on wildlife activity, according to organizers.
If you go to Creamer’s Field on your own, dogs are allowed but they must be kept on leashes. Doggy stations are set up along the trails.
There are elevated observation platforms for those who want a birds-eye view over the birch, spruce, poplar and willow trees. Visitors can leave the trails and venture into the fields at any time except during the bird migration periods when the fields are off limits to people and dogs.
Among some of the more popular annual events hosted by the Friends of Creamer’s Field, are the Design Alaska Wild Art Walk (June 16), Creamer’s Dairy Day (July 21), the Sandhill Crane Festival (Aug. 23-25) and the Luminary Trail & Open House (Dec. 7).
The Art Walk features as many as many as 30 Fairbanks area artists along the walk route drawing, sketching and painting wildlife artwork. Many of those works are auctioned off to help Friends of Creamer’s Field continue its mission at the refuge.
Creamer’s Dairy Day features a tour of the former dairy, shared anecdotes about the farm from members of the Creamer family and an ice cream social.
The 22nd annual Sandhill Crane Festival happens when thousands of the birds make landfall in the front field of the refuge for a few weeks before continuing their fall migration from Siberia and Alaska. This year’s festival will include workshops, demonstrations and talks by special guests, guided nature walks and other fun activities.
Visit www.friendsofcreamersfield.org for more information.