THERE'S ALWAYS A crowd at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks; just not always the human type. Located on 2,000 acres of woodland, wetland, and pastured landscape, Creamer’s Field is a local treasure to waterfowl, wildlife, and people of Alaska’s second-largest community. Flush with a bright and chattery spectrum of bird species and a similar demographic of local families, Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is the perfect spot for a daytime breakaway, an evening stroll, or a bit of midwinter solace. It’s peaceful, it’s beautiful, and every time our family visits, we come away with a greater appreciation for the multiple layers of flora and fauna provided by mother nature.
The farmhouse visitors' center is an easy-to-spot landmark...
The Refuge is easy to find; the big, white barn is a Fairbanks landmark along College Road, and no matter the season, residents and a multitude of out-of-town visitors can be found walking, skiing, or peering through spotting scopes at the latest feathered friend to appear on the seeded fields. The barns, historic farmhouse, and 12 acres of land near the entrance are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, thanks to farmers Belle and Charles Hinckley, who settled the property in the early 1900’s after a trek from Nome aboard a sternwheeler. They sold the land and buildings to the Creamer family in 1928, and the dairy operated successfully until 1966. With subsequent development and partnership of the Friends of Creamer’s Field group, the property shares responsibility for thousands of migrating birds each year, including leggy Sandhill cranes who yack and yodel and dance around the ponds and fields each August. There’s even a festival celebrating the event.
Skiing on a warm-for-Fairbanks day - just 19 degrees!
Creamer’s Field is also home to a lovely array of kid-friendly trails, perfect for young hikers. Level and full of interpretive opportunities, the fields and surrounding boreal forest possess a rich texture of nature-made differences and similarities, and make hiking tons of fun for children of multiple ages and abilities. Besides simply wandering the beautiful expanse of pastureland, the Boreal Forest Trail is an excellent place to spend a few hours of wooded exploration. A 1.5 mile loop of completely accessible trail and boardwalk, the Boreal Forest Trail winds through noble stands of birch, swampy wetland, and surprisingly dense spruce, with signs posted along the way to explain various points of reference. A large platform on the loop’s backside provides a bit of elevation to the hike, with great views of nearby swamps, and occasional glimpses of wildlife. While upon the platform, take a minute to simply listen. Traffic noise is gone, and all one hears is the chirping of birds and the whisper of wind. It’s an amazing moment of appreciation for nature’s music, and our son liked the song so much he decided to do a “quiet walk” along an adjoining section. See if you can give it a try, too.
Wintertime brings snowfall and a season of outdoor recreation that includes Nordic skiing or snowshoeing. Parents and kids will enjoy the thoughtful grooming of trails and ease of access when the temperatures drop. The same Boreal Forest Trail we enjoy so much during spring, summer, and fall now turns into a beautiful link to cold-weather fun. The Farmhouse Visitor Center frequently hosts wintertime walks on weekend, with hot chocolate at the end; a welcome way to celebrate the long, dark, and frigid Fairbanks winter.
Informational kiosk at the field...
Creamer’s Field posts a full schedule of events on the organization’s website; from Winter Solstice celebrations to periodic family activity days throughout the year, the property is definitely worth stopping by, any time.
Erin Kirkland is the owner and publisher of AKonotheGO.com, a website dedicated to family-friendly travel and outdoor recreation in Alaska. Visit her blog and post your own photos of nature time with kids in the gallery.