PUBLISHED: 5:35 PM on Wednesday, April 6, 2005
Garnet Festival celebrates eagles' return to the Stikine Delta

Photo ©
  Bald eagles are only one of many bird species congregating on the Stikine river delta during the spring months.
Residents of Wrangell are gearing up for the annual Garnet Festival, April 14-23, to celebrate the arrival of spring and the plethora of wildlife, especially birds that visit the Stikine delta on their flight north. The eight day celebration is marked by the largest springtime concentration of bald eagles in North America.

But the festival isn't only about wildlife. Scheduled festival events include golf tournaments, live concerts, birding and kayaking workshops, live bird demonstrations, public market, artist's fair, island and river birding tours. Jet boat tours offer participants a chance to view Sea Lions chasing a supper of hooligan up the Stikine River, bald eagles fishing, as well as flocks of shore birds and other wildlife located on the delta.

Michael Jeneid, noted author, birder, speaker and master kayak instructor, is this year's featured guest. Jeneid will hold workshops and also guide a "Birding By Kayak" tour on the river's delta, which counts about 123 different bird species, including 200,000 shorebirds, up to 15,000 snow geese and over 10,000 sand hill cranes annually beginning in mid-April. The eulachon run also attracts large numbers of Steller Sea Lions and Harbor Seals. Lesnoi Island, located near the mouth of the river is a popular Sea Lion "haul out" during the spring eulachon run. Occasionally, Orcas can be seen near the delta waiting to feast on stray Sea Lions or Seals.

Garnet Festival was founded in 1997 and is scheduled annually, every third week in April. Festival activities are planned to enhance the education of Wrangell's school children, community and visitors about the history of the Stikine River Delta, its wildlife and the area's local native heritage and culture.

The festival is named after Wrangell's Garnet Ledge, which has been mined by amateurs and professionals for over a century. The ledge is located near the mouth of the Stikine River, about five miles from the City of Wrangell. Today, the only people allowed to take garnets from the area are the same ones who own it - the children of Wrangell. Alaska Airlines is offering special fares for the festival, or you can take the ferry there.