Trail Sled Dog Race is one of the Alaska’s iconic winter events, and the
excitement traditionally starts in Anchorage on the first Saturday of March
each year. The race start is set for Anchorage on March 4 2023. – making the 51st
anniversary of the “Last Great Race”
Here is a brief history about
In the early 1920’s, settlers came to Alaska looking for gold.
They travelled by boat to the coastal towns of Seward and Knik, and from there
by land into gold fields.
The trail they used to travel inland is known
today as the Iditarod Trail, one of the National Historic Trails designated by
the congress of the United States.
The Iditarod Trail, quickly became a major
thorough fare in Alaska, as the mail and supplies were carried across this
trail. People also used it to get from place to place, including the priests,
ministers, and judges who had to travel between villages, in the winter, the settler’s
only means of travel down this trail was via dog sled.
Once the gold rush ended, many gold seekers
went back where they had come from, and suddenly there was much less travel on
the Iditarod Trail. The introduction of the air plane in the late 1920’s meant
dog teams were no longer the standard mode of transportation, and of course
with the airplane carrying the mail and supplies, there was less need for land
travel in general. The final blow to the use of dog teams was the appearance of
By the mid 1960’s most Alaskans didn’t even
know the Iditarod Trail, existed, or that dog teams had played a crucial role
in Alaska’s early settlements. Dorothy G. Page, a self -made historian,
recognised how few people knew about the former use of sled dogs as working
animals and about the Iditarod Trail’s role in Alaska’s colourful history. To
raise awareness about this aspect of Alaskan history, she came up with the idea
to have a dog sled race over the Iditarod Trail. She presented her idea to an
enthusiastic musher, as dog sled drivers are known, named Joe Redington, Sr.
Soon the pages and the Redingtons were working together to promise the idea of
the Iditarod race.
Many people worked to make the first Iditarod
Trail sled Dog race a reality in 1967. The Aurora Dog Mushers club, along with
men from the Adult camp in Sutton, helped clear years of over growth from the
first nine miles of the Iditarod Trail.
To raise interest in the race, a $25,000 purse
was offered, with Joe Redington donating 1 acre of his land to help raise the
funds. The short race, approximately 27 miles long, was put on a second time in
After these first two successful races, the
goal was to lengthen the race a little further to the ghost town of Iditarod by
1973. However in 1972, the U.S. Army reopened the trail as a winter exercise,
and so in 1973, the decision was made to take the race all the way to the city
of Nome – over 1000 miles. There were many who believed could not be done and
that it was crazy to send a bunch of Mushers out into the vast, uninhabited Alaskan
wilderness. But the race went! Twenty two mushers finished that year, and to
date over 400 people completed it.
Apart from winter chills, winter offers exciting
events like these which many sport and adventure lovers look forward to.