Alaskans for Palmer Hay Flats
Promoting responsible use and enjoyment of Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge
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Palmer Seasons on the Hay Flats

Spring

Springtime on the Palmer Hay Flats is a birder’s paradise. An abundance of migratory waterfowl can be seen in great numbers, passing through the refuge in May including Canada Geese, Snow Geese, White Fronted Geese, Trumpeter Swans, Sandhill Cranes, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, American Widgeons, Mallards, Green Winged Teal, Goldeneye, Common and Pacific Loons and many, many more. Sandhill cranes arrive to dance and prepare their nests, songbirds, boreal owls, yellow legs and wood frogs compete for dominance with their territorial songs. It is the time of renewal.

Summer

Summer is a halcyon time on the Hay Flats. Endless ponds reflect blue sky, white clouds and magnificent mountains. Glorious northern sun revels bright on the landscape. Young are born, wildflowers burst into profusion.

A variety of nesting birds can be found on the Hay Flats including Bald Eagles,Sandhill Cranes, Mew gulls, Yellowlegs and numerous Savannah Sparrows. One very unusual bird this far North, a Sora, has been recorded singing at the Hay Flats in prior years.

 


 

Autumn

Autumn is a fleeting and spectacular time on the Hay Flats. Sweeping vistas of vast tundra appear as a woven, textural tapestry laid below high, jagged granite mountain peaks thrusting skyward, white under the first layers of “termination dust”. As fall descends over the refuge, the willows and sedges turn golden brown and migratory waterfowl pass through on their long journey south. Waterfowl hunting is a popular refuge activity commencing in September. (Alaska hunting regulations)

Winter

Wintertime on the Palmer Hay Flats is one of the most tranquil seasons to enjoy nature. As the tides ebb and flow, moisture arrives on the landscape and combines with frigid cold temperatures to create a magical world of frost. Winter sun, now deep in the southern sky, brings spectacular sunrises and sunsets of pink, peach, orange and hot magenta red, before fading to deep indigo and black. Moonlight and sparkling stars bring “diamond dust” to the sleeping tundra. Midnight aurora crowns all this beauty on frequent visits throughout the long winter sleep.

The base snow level remains relatively low due to the frequency of scouring winds and moose use the Hay Flats in abundance when deep snows blanket the surrounding mountains. Moose can often be seen in large numbers when driving along the Glenn Highway in the early morning. Common Redpolls are often seen in the hundreds at this time of year feeding on the seeds of the wetlands vegetation. Muskrat lodges are plentiful and conspicuous at this time of year too and fresh tracks of coyote, moose, weasel and mink are common.

X-C skiing, dog sledding, skate skiing, skijoring, ice skating snowshoeing and snowmachining are just a few of the wintertime recreational activities to be enjoyed on the flats. Snowmachines are allowed November 9 through March 31 if there are 12 inches of snow and 12 inches of frozen ground except within one-half mile of the Glenn Highway. This is vital to protect the valuable wetlands vegetation.

All photos Copyright 2005 Dawn Bragg