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PUBLISHED: 6:05 PM on Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Stikine River Garnet Festival beckons visitors
WRANGELL - Residents of Alaska's Inside Passage community of Wrangell will celebrate the arrival of spring with their annual Stikine River Garnet Festival, April 23-27.

Spring arrives earlier in southeast Alaska than in other areas of the state. The festival is the "Kick off" event for springtime birding and wildlife festivals held through out Alaska.

Visitors are invited to join the five day celebration which is marked by the largest springtime concentration of American Bald Eagles in North America.

Festival events include golf tournaments, birding workshops, artist's fair, island and river birding tours.

Alaska Waters, Inc.'s delta 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.

The variety of wildlife on the Stikine's (Stik-Heen) delta sets the festival apart from all other festivals in Alaska.

Up to 2000 American Bald Eagles arrive to feed on hooligan traveling up the river's Middle and North arm.

The delta is a major stopover on the Pacific Fly-Way for approximately 200,000 shorebirds and up to 15,000 Snow Geese and over 10,000 Sand Hill Cranes. Approximately 123 different species of birds are represented annually on the delta beginning mid-April through the beginning of May.

The spring run of "Hooligan" or Eulachon (a small, smelt like fish) also attracts large numbers of Steller Sea Lions and Harbor Seals.

Leisnoi Island, located near the mouth of the river is a popular Sea Lion "haul out" during the spring Hooligan run.

Occasionally, Orcas can be seen near the delta waiting to feast on stray Sea Lions or Seals.

The festival is named after the Stikine River'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.

Local children often can be seen selling the local garnets to ferry and cruise ship passengers in the summertime.

The festival was founded in 1997 by Alaska Waters' marketing director. It was created to enhance the education of Wrangell's children, community and visitors about the wildlife and history of the Stikine River Delta, celebrate the area's local native culture as well as encourage economic development and diversity for the community of Wrangell.

For more information about the festival, visit www.wrangell.com/news/events.


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