The Conservation Fund purchased 480 acres adjacent to the refuge from the University of Alaska and an additional 50 acres from a private landowner to expand the refuge by 530 acres. The protection of this land was a conservation priority for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and an objective of the Creamer’s Field Refuge Management Plan. In September 2020, the State of Alaska purchased the land from The Conservation Fund for inclusion in the refuge using funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Restoration Program.


Creamers Field How an Alaskan Dairy Farm Became a Wildlife Sanctuary map

Click here to view full map. Credit: The Conservation Fund


Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is an important stopover for migratory birds flying both north and south during the changing seasons. The fields are well known for drawing thousands of migrating birds each Spring, which in turn draws thousands of visitors to see them. Upon arrival, visitors to the refuge are greeted by the words “Creamers Dairy” stenciled across a large dairy barn. Now part of the National Register of Historic Places, what was once a bustling dairy farm was the beginning of the valuable wildlife refuge.

At the turn of the 20th Century, Fairbanks was a booming gold rush town, and Charles Hinckley established the dairy farm to serve the growing population. Hinckley hired a teenaged Charles Creamer to work at the farm, and he worked there intermittently until serving in World War I. In the late-1920s, Charles and his wife Rosanna returned to Fairbanks and bought the dairy farm from Hinckley, expanding the dairy operation to become the largest in Central Alaska.

Photo credit: Friends of Creamer's Field

After acquiring the farm, the Creamers managed the farm to support the dairy operation as well as the migratory bird population which would descend upon the fields every Spring. Charles saved barn sweepings of oats and barley to spread in the fields to provide additional food for the migratory birds. The Creamers ran the dairy farm until Rosanna’s passing in 1965, when Charles decided it was time to sell the farm. The community partnered with the Alaska Conservation Society and fundraised to secure an option to purchase the farm, which kept it off the real estate market until the state had the funds to purchase it. In 1968, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) acquired the property from Creamer, and soon thereafter, the Alaska Division of Lands transferred management of an adjacent 1,524-acre tract of state land to ADF&G. Together, the roughly 1,790-acre wildlife management area went on to be named the Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge.

Today, the refuge features a mosaic of ecosystems and microhabitats. The diversity of wildlife habitat at Creamer’s Field supports a rich abundance of plant and animal species. The namesake fields are traversed by remnant stream channels that act as ephemeral wetlands, offering high quality feeding and breeding habitat for the migratory birds. 150 different bird species are found at the refuge throughout the year, including species such as the Canada goose, snow goose, trumpeter swan, mallard, northern shoveler and sandhill cranes.

Subarctic boreal forest sweeps through northern parts of the refuge in different successional stages which are influenced by fire, weather and human activity. The younger stages of boreal forest are flush with shrubby plants and willow, aspen and birch trees. This habitat is preferred by many species of small mammals, songbirds, gamebirds and moose. In the climax stage, spruce and fir dominate the tree canopy and create a dense forest with a sparse forest floor. Wildfires shape boreal forests by burning mature spruce and fir trees to create patches of early successional grassland and thinning the canopy to allow aspen and birch to grow. Larger predator species such as the Canada lynx and gray wolf benefit from this diversity of habitat as the mature spruce stands provide shelter while the younger willow and birch forests provide food for their prey species.

The charismatic Alaskan wildlife found in the refuge draw visitors from all over the world. With an expansive network of trails, the refuge is popular for Nordic skiing, hiking, dog mushing, hunting, trapping, and educational programs. Biological research is also frequently conducted at the refuge due to its exceptional biological diversity. The addition of 530 acres of land to the refuge will conserve wildlife habitat and expand the educational, recreational, and research opportunities at the refuge for generations to come.

Photo credit: Friends of Creamer's Field