Creamer's Field was originally part of Creamer's Dairy.
Charles and Belle Hinckley
started the dairy on Fourth Avenue in 1904, serving boomtown Fairbanks south of the Chena.
By 1915, they had moved to a bigger place across the Chena, where Creamer's
stands today. In 1928, the Hinckleys sold the dairy to Charles and Anna Creamer--Charles
was the son of close friends living nearby, and Anna was Belle Hinckley's younger sister.
From then on, the dairy was known as Creamer's.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Creamer's worked hard to modernize and
expand the business. They built two large "Louden'' barns--designed by the Louden
Machinery Co. of Iowa--which still give Creamer's its distinctive visual appeal. The first
and largest barn cost $13,700--more than the entire dairy was worth 10 years earlier. Its
hayloft held 165 tons of hay, enough to feed 55 cows through the winter.
To celebrate the opening of the new barn and its state-of-the-art
equipment in 1938, the Creamers threw a huge dance and invited the whole town. According
to the report in the News-Miner the next day, nearly everyone in Fairbanks attended.
War and After
The 1940s and early 1950s Creamer's Dairy prospered, selling milk,
ice cream, sherbet, cottage cheese, whipping cream, buttermilk, chocolate milk, and even a
non-dairy orange drink. World War II was good for business at first, because it enabled
them to secure a lucrative contract to sell milk and ice cream to Ladd Air Force Base. But post-war changes in shipping
(air and the newly opened Alaska Highway) allowed outside competitors to enter the local
market. These and other economic factors were taking their toll by the late 1950s. The
dairy ended production in 1966.
The town rallied to help purchase the land for preservation, and in
the early 1970s the state acquired it for use as a waterfowl sanctuary, which it has been
the major buildings still standing at Creamer's Field are the family residence/visitor's
center, the barn complex, processing building, and the bunkhouse/potato storage shed. The
entire site is on the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings are still owned
by the state and operated by the Fish and Game Department. [Photo courtesy of Julie Coghill].
Waterfowl Wildlife Refuge
Watching the birds at Creamer's Field on their annual pass
through Alaska is one of Fairbanks' most popular spring and fall pastimes. But the
1,800-acre refuge has much more to offer. Three nature trails wind through a variety of
natural habitats common to the Interior: forest, shrub, muskeg and wetlands. The loop
trail starting by the parking lot begins a leisurely two-mile stroll through the refuge.
Free guided nature walks, sponsored by Friends of Creamer's Field, are offered several
times a week from June 1 to September 1. They begin at the College Road parking lot, and
subjects will vary between history, wildlife and the forest, depending on the guide.
Tours are Wednesdays and Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays at
7 p.m. Allow 1-2 hours. Call (907) 452-5162 for more information. The web site mentioned
at the bottom of this page has an excellent map of the trails.
The Creamer's Field visitor center contains informative displays and
souvenirs. The center is located in the lower floor of the Creamer's original farmhouse,
which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Trail
guide books are available there with information keyed to posts placed along the path.
Visitors are required to keep their dogs on leashes, and mosquito repellent is
recommended. The trails are used by mushers, skiers and skijorers in the
winter, and they connect to trails leading to the dog mushers hall on Farmers Loop. Sprint
teams competing in the Open North American Sled Dog Championships race their dog teams
over these trails each spring.
The Creamer family's practice of plowing the field in the spring
and fertilizing it with manure, combined with leftovers from the fall harvest, drew
migrating waterfowl. The birds' annual arrival continues to be looked forward to as one of
the first signs of spring. A local Kiwanis club spreads grain over the plowed field each
spring to welcome returning birds.
Substantial numbers of Canada geese and ducks can be seen in spring
and fall during their migrations through Alaska, while Sandhill Cranes may be seen from
mid-April to mid-September. Songbirds, some from as far away as South America, pass
through or nest on the refuge as well. Moose are commonly seen by those who walk the
nature trail system. The late Wayne Nelson, then serving as Fairbanks mayor, proclaimed
the arrival of the Canadian geese as the Golden Heart city's official "herald of
spring." He dubbed the last Saturday in April "Goose Day."
Radio stations KFAR-AM and KWLF-FM. sponsor a Goose Watchers contest,
following a tradition begun by the late "Wee Willy Wally", station owner and
another former city mayor and councilman. In this contest, the prize ($660 after the call
numbers of the AM station) is awarded the first one to spot a goose at Creamer's Field, as
well as others "caught" wearing their "goose watchers buttons" which
are distributed free at sponsor locations throughout the area. If you
follow the link above, you can see a vintage page explaining the
contest, but it has only been offered sporadically in recent years. In
2014, it would have been won by an employee of Fish and Game, who was
walking the grounds at least a week before any geese where expected, and
saw the first two geese to arrive.
Sandhill Crane Festival
Creamer's Field is the site of the annual Sandhill Crane Festival. See
their website for dates. There are two distinct
groups of sandhill cranes in Alaska. 200,000 belong to a group that
breeds on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, and the smaller 20,000 group breeds
are the Pacific Flyway Population. A few nests have also been found in
Southeast Alaska, belonging to birds who winter in the Central Valley of
The festival in the past have included an opening reception and art
show, multimedia presentations, demonstrations such as bird banding,
crafts for kids, a crane calling contest, workshops, tours, "Brunch with
the Cranes" including healthy food and live music, crane watches
(spotting scopes and binoculars available) and bird research talks. In
2009, it closed with a Tex-Mex dinner and fundraiser for Camp Habitat.
The visitor center's winter hours are noon to 4pm. Summer hours (at least in
1999) were 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday
through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Call (907) 452-5162 for more
current information or go to the
site of the Friends of Creamer's Field.
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