What Is the History of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race?


Quick Answer

After nearly 10 years of planning and trail construction, the first 1,150-mile Iditarod race launched in 1973, and was completed by only three entrants. The Iditarod race, a feat of human and canine endurance, was inspired by a grueling trans-Alaskan trek to save lives in the remote town of Nome, Alaska, in 1925. The Iditarod race commemorates that journey, and follows the trail of the legendary Iditarod Trail from Anchorage to Nome.

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Full Answer

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Alaskan frontier was accessible exclusively by dogsled. Although it crossed some of the most remote and forbidding tracts of land in Alaska, the Iditarod Trail was the state's only trade route, and was traveled by miners seeking fortunes from silver and gold.

With the advent of technology, the Iditarod Trail lost its prominent position in American society as air transportation replaced foot travel. In the 1960s, however, an Alaskan resident named Dorothy Page suggested holding a dogsled race over a portion of the Iditarod Trail to remember Alaska's dog-sledding past, which was all but forgotten by 1967, its centennial year.

The idea gained traction, but took work to bring to fruition. Initially, modest teams of local mushers and a few dogs sprinted 8- to 9-mile stretches of the Trail. With the help of the U.S. Army and dedicated volunteers, however, the Iditarod Trail was eventually cleared and restored. Now, the annual race of 1,150 miles continues, serving as a tribute to Alaska's dog-sledding past and its formidable lands.

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