If two projects are successful, people will have a new way to access Caribou Lakes in the Creamer’s Field Migratory Wildlife Refuge.
The Interior Alaska Land Trust (IALT) plans to build a trailhead, with parking, just off Farmer’s Loop Road. The Interior Trails and Preservation Coalition (ITPC) has submitted a plan for a project to improve trails from that trailhead to the lakes.
The IALT has submitted a conditional use permit to the Fairbanks North Star Borough for the parking lot. As part of the process for the permit, there will be a public comment period and a meeting. Neither has yet been scheduled.
“Our goals for the trailhead are to improve access and to support existing usage patterns (primarily winter access) and to support any improvements to access that the Refuge decides to make to its trail system,” IALT President Owen Guthrie wrote in an email.
A trailhead already exists in the area, but it is small, poorly marked, and awkwardly located. It holds 5-6 cars and is across Farmer’s Loop from Shuros Drive. People using that parking lot must cross a driveway to access the trailhead.
“Also, the trail descends steeply down the side of the driveway and then makes a hard right turn in a very tight spot,” Guthrie wrote. “It is very difficult for skiers (especially novice skiers) to make that turn among the trees.”
The new parking lot would hold more cars (10-12) and users would have direct and better access to the trailhead.
The ITPC hopes to construct a non-motorized trail, with several branches, that would lead from the new trailhead to five lakes in the area. The group has submitted its proposal to the refuge arguing that it would improve access and protect habitat.
“There are well used existing trails in the area, but they are difficult to use due to boggy conditions, thick brush, steep banks, tussocks, etc.,” the proposal states. “The trails braid with people looking for an easier route. Having a single well-defined trail with signs asking people to stay on the trail will better protect the habitat.”
The ITPC cites a portion of the 1993 refuge management plan that calls for building “an access trail into Caribou Lakes from Farmer’s Loop Road.”
The ITPC plan would also implement steps to help protect birds that nest in the lakes. According to the plan, “signs would be placed where social trails continue into nesting habitat. Possible sign wording; CLOSED DURING NESTING SEASON MAY 1 – JULY 1.”
Also, pipe bollards would be installed at the trailhead to prevent ATVs from accessing the trail. According to ITPC President Stan Justice, the bollards should allow most snowmachines to use the trail. The state Department of Fish and Game, which manages the refuge, typically issues five-year permits for the public to use motorized vehicles in the refuge in winter. (You can see a copy of the most recent permit here: https://tinyurl.com/3abxeu6t.)
The plan calls for the “initial primary connector trail to Reindeer Lake” to be brushed, and then landscape fabric put down with gravel placed on top of that.
“The planned trails will perhaps take many years to construct, and some parts may not get developed beyond cutting of brush,” according to the proposal.
This map is strictly a proposal, NOT a map of existing trails. Please do not use this as a guide to finding trails to these lakes.