What’s a musk ox? If you’ve never been to Alaska, this is a great question! The musk ox is one of the Arctic’s oldest living species, a contemporary of the wooly mammoth and saber-toothed tiger. These Ice Age animals were once close to extinction, but thanks to the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, AK, visitors can still observe “the bearded ones” up close! You’ll learn about their natural history and how their fine underwool, called qiviut, provides income opportunities to native Alaskans. Here’s why a trip to the farm should be on your to-do list.
How to Spend a Day at the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, AK
1. Learn the History
In the 1940’s and 50’s, wild musk oxen were few and far between. The villages of coastal Alaska were also moving into a cash economy. While others saw two insurmountable challenges, John Teal saw an opportunity; he believed that the animals and native Alaskans could thrive together.
After more than a decade of research, Teal started Alaska’s first musk ox farm to focus on the domestication of the musk ox and to harvest the qiviut fiber. Today, the farm boasts a lively herd of over 80 musk oxen – from powerful bulls to frolicking calves – and native knitters turn their underwool into beautiful, hand-knit garments.
2. Experience Qiviut
Did you know that qiviut is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool? It’s one of nature’s finest fibers and helps keep the musk ox warm in the winter. Every spring, the qiviut is combed from the animals and is used to make hats, scarves, and other clothing. Be sure to stop by the farm’s gift shop where you can buy gorgeous qiviut products created by local artists!
3. Take a Guided Tour
One of the best ways to meet the musk oxen is to take a tour of the farm. These creatures are very friendly and may come right up to the fence to greet you! Your guide will share information about the herd as well as the unique history of Palmer. Tours are available by appointment in the winter and summer hours begin in May.
4. Attend an Event
The Musk Ox Farm reopens to the public each Mother’s Day. Opening day is a wonderful event where Mom gets free admission and flowers, and everyone gets to meet the baby musk oxen! If you’re visiting in August, be sure attend the farm’s annual Running with the Bulls. This 10k, 5k, or 1k Kid’s Fun-Run is a wonderful event for the whole family. Or, stop by in the fall for Oxtoberfest. You’ll enjoy a delicious farm-to-table feast featuring locally-grown ingredients, German-style beer and wine, and an Oompah band.
Book Your Stay at Alaska Garden Gate B&B and Cottages
Just a 15-minute drive from the Musk Ox Farm, Alaska Garden Gate offers unparalleled lodging in Palmer, AK. If you’re looking for space and privacy, reserve one of our two bedroom, two bath luxury apartments with a full living room, kitchen, dining area, and private deck. Or check out our fully-equipped two bedroom/two bath cottages. All of our accommodations come with a delicious, complimentary breakfast each morning. Yum! Click here to see what’s available and book your stay today.
Photo Credit: mlharing | Getty Images