Fairbanks Area: Airport and South Cushman Ponds

An American pipit.
Mallards in spring snow.

On the south side of town near the airport and a semi-industrial area, a series of ponds, gravel pits and mudflats harbor birds and other wildlife. It’s not exactly bucolic, but local birders and other wildlife enthusiasts know to come here.

Wildlife Viewing and Safety Tips

In the spring, Fairbanks birders scan the two ponds at the entrance to the Fairbanks Airport for waterfowl and newly-arrived migrants. In the area behind the airport, a variety of ponds, gravel pits and mud flats attract shorebirds and waterfowl. The south end of the airport runway is near the confluence of the Chena and Tanana Rivers, where sloughs and dikes create a network of watercourses.

South Cushman Ponds are just east of the airport, where a braided and silty channel of the Tanana River runs along the southern edge of Fairbanks, and a number of gravel pits, sloughs and ponds draw wildlife and especially birds to the area. The gravel pits and sloughs attract migrating birds, and adjacent grasslands and woodlands harbor a wide range of shorebirds and songbirds. Moose and other wildlife can be found in these areas as well. Birding is particularly good during the spring migration from late April to late May.

The overall ambiance is far less appealing than other areas near town, with junked cars and trash, mud and dust. It's important to watch for traffic and commercial activity. However, the close proximity to town, good access and the surprising abundance of birds can make a visit rewarding.

Accessible Facilities



To reach the ponds by the airport entrance, take Airport Way past the terminal and park in the area around the southwest shore of the east pond. The ponds and mudflats behind the airport are accessible from the gravel roads behind and adjacent to the airport, and off the south end of University Avenue.

The area around Cushman pond is located in the semi-industrial and formerly industrial areas between the airport and the end of Cushman and Lathrop Streets to the east.