Welcome to the State of Alaska Travel News Bulletin. The tourism office sends this out periodically to keep media up-to-date on Alaska tourism and travel news. Media are invited to call 800-327-9372 www.TravelAlaska.com/media for more information.

March 1, 2012

In this March Travel News Bulletin you will find:

1. New Juneau tour offers bear viewing by kayak
2. Historic train engine No. 557 comes home
3. Gold Dredge 8 opens in Fairbanks
Spring birding season returns to Alaska

1. New Juneau tour offers bear viewing by kayak
Above and Beyond Alaska was recently awarded a 10-year permit by the US Forest Service to operate guided day trips to the Pack Creek area of Admiralty Island, which boasts one of the highest concentrations of brown bears in the world. The adventure begins in Juneau and combines flightseeing, sea kayaking and bear viewing in a highly protected area where visitation is limited. The full-day tour begins with a 25-minute scenic floatplane flight to Windfall Island. From there, guided groups of 2-10 people sea kayak to either Windfall Harbor or Pack Creek Brown Bear Sanctuary, offering the choice between two different viewing experiences. The tour is available May 15 through Sept. 15 and peak season for bear viewing is July through August. For more information, visit www.beyondak.com.
Media contact:
Contact: Becky Janes, Above and Beyond Alaska, LLC
Phone: 907-364-2333
Twitter: @beyondak
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Above-Beyond-Alaska
Email: becky@beyondak.com
URL: www.beyondak.com  

2. Historic train engine No. 557 comes home
The Alaska Railroad Corp. welcomed home a blast from the past with the return of an important and historic steam locomotive. Constructed in 1944 for the U.S. Army, engine No. 557 was the last steam engine operated by the railroad in 1962. Recently stored at a museum in Moses Lake, Wash., it finally made the long haul back to Anchorage in January and will undergo major restoration. The Alaska Railroad hopes to bring the engine back to life as part of its passenger services fleet as early as 2013. For now, travelers can enjoy panoramic views and GoldStar Service from the railroad's existing cars as they travel between Seward and Fairbanks with various destinations in between. Last summer the Alaska Railroad partnered up with Ascending Path in Girdwood to offer guided glacier hiking at the Spencer Whistle Stop. In 2012 they’re adding ice hiking and climbing options to the tour as well as package deals at Alyeska Resort. For more information, visit www.AlaskaRailroad.com.
Media contacts:
Contact: Susie Kiger, Alaska Railroad Corp.
Phone: 907-265-2487
Email: kigers@akrr.com

Contact: Tim Sullivan, Alaska Railroad Corp.
Phone: 907-265-2357
Email: sullivant@akrr.com

Twitter: @akrr
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AlaskaRailroad
URL: www.alaskarailroad.com

3. Gold Dredge 8 opens in Fairbanks
Opening in May 2012, a new attraction in Fairbanks combines two well-known sights - the El Dorado Gold Mine Tour and Gold Dredge No. 8. Guests board a narrow-gauge rail train (a replica of the historic Tanana Valley Railroad) from a viewpoint of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and travel to the historic gold dredge. After a demonstration of sluice box mining techniques, the train continues on to the goldfields. Travelers exit the train, pan for gold (finding gold is guaranteed) and have the opportunity to explore the dredge. At the on-site gift shop guests can weigh their gold (and keep it) and enjoy a complimentary refreshments. The two-hour tour will be offered twice per day between May 15 and Sept. 26. Tours can be booked at www.golddredge8.com or by calling 907-479-6673.
Media contact:
Contact: Suzy Fischer, Riverboat Discovery
Phone: 907-479-6673
Email: susan@riverboatdiscovery.com
URL: www.golddredge8.com

4. Spring birding season returns to Alaska
Canadian researchers recently discovered that a tiny songbird that summers in Arctic Alaska might be the farthest-migrating bird on Earth. That’s the perfect news to get birders aflutter about spring in Alaska and its multitude of birding festivals. Beginning in April, birding season kicks off with the Alaska Hummingbird Festival in Ketchikan (www.alaskacenters.gov/ketchikan.cfm), Spring Migration Celebration in Fairbanks (www.creamersfield.org) and the Stikine River Birding Festival in Wrangell (www.alaskabirdfest.com). In May, as many as 5 million shorebirds rest and feed in Cordova during the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival (http://cordovachamber.com). Binoculars turn to the skies on the Kenai Peninsula for the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival (www.homeralaska.org) and Kenai Birding Festival (http://kenaibirdfest.com). Up north, the Tanana Migratory Bird Festival has become a welcome tradition in Tok. New to the lineup, the Yakutat Tern Festival celebrates one of the largest and southernmost breeding colonies of Aleutian Terns. For more information, visit http://alaskacenters.gov.
Media Contact:
Contact: Anne Sutton, Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game
Phone: 907-465-5157
Email: anne.sutton@alaska.gov
URL: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov


Social Media Spotlight 

On Saturday, March 3, the 40th running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicks off with a ceremonial start in Anchorage. The world famous 1,100-mile trip to Nome traverses some of the harshest and most remote terrain in the world and commemorates the historic 1925 run of life-saving diphtheria serum to Nome. The race officially begins March 4 on Willow Lake, as mushers and their 16 canine athletes head out in three-minute intervals. Be sure to follow updates to the race on Facebook and on Twitter at @IditarodInsider.
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