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Southwest tourism highlights.

Stretching from Kodiak Island through the Aleutians and to communities along the Bering Sea, southwest Alaska attracts thousands of travelers each year. Tourism businesses in the remote communities of the Southwest offer an astonishing array of adventures.

Big on Bears

Butch Tovsen, owner of Uyak Air Service in Kodiak, is so sure that you'll see bears on one of his three different tours that he'll refund your money if you don't spot one of the giant brown bruins. Trips range from a three- to four-hour trip via float plane ($395 per person) to a four-day/three-night trip at a remote camp ($2,345 per person).

"People that have done these trips have been happy," Tovsen says. "At least 90 percent of our customers come closer |to a bear~ than they want to be."

On average, those on a half-day viewing trip can expect to see no fewer than six bears and, if they're lucky, as many as 50. For more information, contact Uyak Air Service, (907) 486-3407.

Along the Aleutians

Traveling the 1,100-mile Aleutian Chain is to stray far from the beaten path. But each year, birders, World War II enthusiasts, Russian-American history buffs and outdoor lovers flock to the area.

Forty to 60 million birds, representing 38 species, wing their way through the chain each year, making it a birder's paradise. Other wildlife-viewing attractions are sea otters, sea lions, porpoise, seals, walrus and migrating gray whales. Along the beach, other travelers find fossils, hike, beachcomb, take pictures, fish and hunt for ducks.

History buffs enjoy relics of World War II scattered throughout the chain, as well as views of the early Russian influence on the area, available at the area's Russian Orthodox churches.

Destination: Dillingham

Dillingham is the hub of Bristol Bay and is the staging area for visitors to the region. Bristol Bay and the Lake Clark/Lake Iliamna region, known as sportsman's paradise, attract big game hunters and sport fishermen from around the world.

Visitors wanting to do more than hunt and fish have a choice of adventures. A trip to Walrus Island State Game Sanctuary promises a memorable experience. Few places in the world are as wild and unspoiled as Round Island, one of the world's largest haulouts for male walruses. Thousands of the massive creatures congregate on the shores of the sanctuary's most visited island from April to May. A colony of Steller sea lions inhabit the island, as do red fox and several hundred thousand seabirds.

Up to 12 visitors at a time can camp on Round Island. Permits, issued on a first-come, first-served basis, are available from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, PO Box 1030, Dillingham, AK 99576-1030; (907) 842-1013.

The region's largest festival, the Dillingham Beaver Round-Up, is held every March. The event attracts area trappers, fur traders and local residents for a week of spring fever-reliever activities: dog races, community dinners, fireworks and the trading of beaver, lynx and marten furs.

For information about Southwest area activities, contact the region's tourism marketing council, Alaska's Southwest, 3300 Arctic Blvd., Suite 203, Anchorage, AK 99503; (907) 562-7380.
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Title Annotation:Alaska
Author:Hill, Robin Mackey
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:May 1, 1993
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