Tanana Lakes

The Tanana Lakes Recreation Area offers nature trails, a swim beach, boat launches, a rifle range, a picnic area, fishing holes, paddle boat rentals and playgrounds just minutes from downtown Fairbanks.

The 750-acre wilderness park is located at the end of Cushman Street along the Tanana River, and admission is free.

The park opened in 2014 and has become increasingly popular, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year. The recreation area is staffed and operated by the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Recent recreation area improvements include new playgrounds.

A musical playground is located near the picnic shelter, and a second playground was built on the peninsula across from the swim beach.

It wasn’t long ago that the recreation area looked like a wasteland with trash and abandoned vehicles. The area attracted partiers and lawbreakers. Community groups came together and cleaned up with the help of grant money, donations and hundreds of hours of volunteer labor.

Tanana Lakes is slowly under development and remains rustic with gravel roads, gravel parking lots, vault toilets, light staffing and an unfinished walking path circling the swim lake.

The beach boasts 4 1/2 acres of sand where people can bake under the endless summer sun before cooling off in Cushman Lake, which is dotted with islands. There is no lifeguard on duty, but life preservers are available for loan.

At the nearby paddle boat launch, boat rentals are available by Alaska Dream Adventures. Rates are $15 for an hour, $25 for two hours and $35 for the day, Monday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game stocks the lake regularly with chinook salmon and rainbow trout. The lake also has pike.

The picnic area has a pavilion for rent, picnic tables, grills, a restroom and playground. The cost to rent the picnic shelter is $30 for four hours and $50 for more than four hours. Reservations can be made by calling 459-1070 or by going online to parks.fnsb.us.

Motorboats and personal watercraft are allowed on a second lake, which has a floating dock and two concrete launch ramps. The motorized boat lake connects to the Tanana River. A public restroom is available at the launch.

The park also attracts dog walkers, but dogs must be kept on a leash and are not allowed on the swim beach.

Tanana Lakes is a year-round recreation area with groomed ski trails, a skating rink, a half-mile skating loop and ice fishing.

Hours starting Memorial Day weekend are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.