Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – Visitor and Education Center

James V. Hansen Wildlife Education Center, Brigham City, Utah

Bear River MBR provides critical habitat for over 250 species of migrating birds, and is a globally important shorebird area encompassing nearly 80,000 acres of marsh, open water, uplands, and alkali mudflats.

The architecture of the 28,425 sf visitor center was influenced by the interpretive goals, the geography of the site, and the forms of the birds themselves ‒ the long sweep of the main roof was inspired by a bird in flight. The facility includes interpretive exhibits, an auditorium, reception desk, gift shop, classrooms, research laboratories, and vehicle maintenance facilities.

The steel framed building sits directly within the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake. The low load-bearing capacity of the wet soil necessitated devising a foundation that acts like a raft to “float” the building in the marshy landscape.  Visitors approach the Center via two boardwalks arcing across the marsh. The boardwalk piers are constructed of wood reclaimed from the railroad trestle that once crossed the Great Salt Lake. Years of being ‘pickled’ in the salty water rendered the wood extremely resistant to decay, which is very useful in this highly corrosive soil.