Thousands come every spring to view 60 species of migrating birds at the former dairy creamery
Just 2 miles from downtown Fairbanks is a birders paradise known by locals simply as Creamer's Field. Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is a 1,800-acre preserve that began as a dairy farm but now provides a range of habitats - forests, wetlands and fields - for a variety of animals, particularly migrating birds.
The refuge dates back to Alaska turn-of-the-century gold rush when a pioneer family brought three cows and some horses from Nome up the Yukon and Tanana Rivers to Fairbanks to operate a dairy. In 1928, the Creamers bought the dairy and enlarged and operated it as the largest and most successful dairy in Interior Alaska until 1966. As the dairy grew, so did the migratory waterfowl that stopped at Creamer's Field, lured by the large open fields and grain.
When the Creamer's put the place up for sale in 1966, Fairbanks residents rallied to ensure the farm fields were preserved as a migratory stopover. The area was established as state game refuge in 1979 with a mission to protect and enhance migratory bird habitat, with an emphasis on waterfowl. The farmhouse and barns, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, are the only surviving pioneer dairy buildings in Interior Alaska.
Ecosystem and Wildlife
The Refuge encompasses farmland, wetland habitat and boreal forest habitat. Today the Alaska Department of Fish and Game seeds the area with bird-luring plants, attracting more than 100 species annually, including sandhill cranes.
The focal points of the Refuge are the historic dairy buildings and the farm fields, which are now the exclusive habitat of migrating waterfowl and resident wildlife. Birds that flock to the refuge include ducks, geese, plovers and cranes. The forested part of the refuge is home to a variety of wildlife, including moose, woodchuck, coyote, fox, lynx and squirrel. The refuge’s wetlands provide residence for beaver, minx and wood frogs, the only species of frog in Interior Alaska.
Each spring, thousands of people stop to view migratory waterfowl, songbirds and residential birds from the roadside viewing area off College Road. Other activities include hiking, fishing and wildlife viewing amid the peaceful scenery. The Creamer’s Field trail system is open year-round, and multi-use trails are groomed throughout the winter to support cross-country skiing, dog mushing, skijoring and snow machining. In addition to the trails, there are viewing platforms around the margins of the fields. The Farmhouse Visitor Center features exhibits and information on wildlife sightings, the Creamer’s history and the refuge. Volunteer naturalists offer guided walks in the summer and host educational events throughout the year.