Iditarod Trail

The Iditarod Trail, also known historically as the Seward-to-Nome Trail, refers to a thousand-plus mile (1,600 km) historic and contemporary trail system in the US state of Alaska. The trail began as a composite of trails established by Alaskan native peoples. Its route crossed several mountain ranges and valleys and passed through numerous historical settlements en route to Nome. The discovery of gold brought thousands of people over this route beginning in 1910. Roadhouses for people and dog barns sprang up every 20 or so miles. By 1918 World War I and the lack of 'gold fever' resulted in far less travel. The trail might have been forgotten except for the 1925 diphtheria outbreak in Nome. In one of the final great feats of dog sleds, twenty drivers and teams carried the life-saving serum 674 miles (1,085 km) in 127 hours. Today, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race serves to commemorate the part the trail and its dog sleds played in the development of Alaska.

Iditarod Trail BLM map
Map of the historical and current Iditarod trails.

Historic Iditarod Trail

The Iditarod Trail was a trail that connected a point 50 miles (80 km) north of Seward, Alaska, where a forerunner of the Alaska Railroad ended, through Iditarod, Alaska and then to Nome. The trail was about 1,150 miles (1,850 km) long. The Iditarod Trail's antecedents were the native trails of the Dena'ina and Deg Hit'an Athabaskan Indians and the Inupiaq and Yup'ik Eskimos.[1]

From its beginning, the trail wound along Turnagain Arm, over Crow Pass, down the Eagle River Valley and northward to the trading post of Knik, Alaska, the largest town on the Upper Cook Inlet until the railroad town of Anchorage was founded in 1915. The trail then passed west through the valleys of the Susitna River and Yentna River and over the Alaska Range and Rainy Pass. West of the Alaska Range, the trail crossed the Kuskokwim River Valley to the hills west of McGrath and entered the Innoko River mining district and the town of Ophir. After Ophir, the trail went southwest through the Kuskokwim Mountains to Iditarod.

The trail went north from Iditarod through the now abandoned towns of Dikeman and Dishkaket and then northwest to the village of Kaltag. The trail then followed the 90-mile (140 km) long Kaltag Portage, an ancient native trading trail, to Unalakleet, on the Norton Sound. From Unalakleet, the trail coursed north and west around the shore of the Seward Peninsula, passing the villages of Shaktoolik, Koyuk, and Golovin. It then proceeded to its end on Front Street in Nome.

The trail was used during the winter by dog mushers with large freight sleds carrying up to 1,100 pounds (500 kg) of freight.

Iditarod Historic Trail

Iditarod Trail Seward 500
Start of the Iditarod National Historic Trail in Seward, Alaska

(From Bureau of Land Management brochure on Iditarod National Historic Trail)

When American explorers and prospectors arrived in the north, they quickly learned from Native Alaskans that sled dog teams were the only way to reliably move goods and people across the frozen landscape. Not by chance, the "Seward to Nome Trail" as the Iditarod was originally called, was first mapped and marked in 1908 by a four-person Alaska Road Commission crew supported by dog teams.

... having two basket sleds and 18 sets dog harness made ... at Seward we spent five days 'trying out dogs' and repacking the outfit ready for the trip ...

— W.L.Goodwin (1908)

Nine months after the route was surveyed, two prospectors made a 'Christmas Day Strike' in the Iditarod Mining District, and the last great gold rush was on. Between 1910 and 1912, 10,000 gold seekers came to Alaska's "Inland Empire". In the following years they worked $30 million of gold from the ground.

... in the month of March I left for the north. That was many years ago when there were only two modes of travel, mush dogs or just mush.

— Charles Lee Cadwallader

Roadhouses and dog barns

With the rush, entrepreneurs quickly erected roadhouses and dog barns along the trail at a convenient day's journey apart—about 20 miles—to shelter and feed trail users. Freight shippers, mail haulers and well-to-do passengers relied on dogsleds. Less wealthy foot-travelers used snowshoes, skis, and the occasional bicycle.

Meals were two dollars each, and blankets spread over wild hay on a pole bunk cost another two dollars. High prices for those days, but a cabin in the shadows of Denali is a long way from civilization.

— Harold Penkenpaugh, Nuggets and Beans

By 1918 the stampede reversed itself. New winter mail contracts bypassed the fading town of Iditarod in favor of more direct routes to Nome, and World War I drew young miners and workers away from the gold fields.

The Cape Nome Roadhouse is the last remaining historical roadhouse on the Iditarod Trail and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nome serum run marks the beginning of the end

In the winter of 1925, a deadly outbreak of diphtheria struck fear in the hearts of Nome residents. Winter ice had closed the port city from the outside world without enough serum to inoculate its residents. Serum from Anchorage was rushed by train to Nenana and picked up by a sled dog relay. Twenty of Alaska's best mushers and their teams carried the serum 674 miles (1,085 km) from Nenana to Nome in just over 127 hours.[2]

This was to be one of the final great feats by sled dogs. Within a decade, air transport replaced the sled dog team as the preferred way to ship mail. With downturns in gold mining, most of the roadhouses closed, boom towns emptied, and the Iditarod Trail fell into disuse.

A partnership effort re-opens the Iditarod Trail

Trail work is never done.

— Joe Redington Sr., "father of the Iditarod"

Forest and tundra reclaimed the Iditarod Trail for almost a half a century until Alaskans, led by Joe Redington, Sr., reopened the routes. To draw attention to the role dogs played in Alaska's history, Redington and his friends created an epic sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ultimately revived dog mushing in Alaska and around the world. After years of effort by Redington and the Alaska Congressional delegation, the Iditarod was designated as a National Historic Trail in 1978.

First among America's National Trail system

National Historic Trails commemorate major routes of exploration, migration, trade, communications, and military actions that formed America. Across America, only 16 trails have been honored as National Historic Trails.[3] The Iditarod is the only Alaskan trail in the national system, and the only Historic Trail celebrating the indispensable role played by "man's best friend" in America's last great gold rush.

Recreation on the Trail today

Iditarod National Historic Trail (9312707977)
Dogsledder on the Iditarod Trail

One hundred years after its heyday, some variation of the entire Historic Iditarod Trail from Seward to Nome is still open to the public. One can explore the Historic Trail year-round on foot, by auto, or by rail between Seward and Knik, Alaska, especially in the Chugach National Forest on the Kenai Peninsula and Chugach State Park outside of Anchorage.

Winter overland travel by snowmobile, ski or dogsled is still a way to explore the remote northern sections of the Iditarod Trail. Many community museums along the Iditarod Trail display historic photography, equipment and artifacts that depict the toils and rewards of life on the historic trail.

For summer recreationists proficient in remote water travel, the rivers used by early gold seekers offer access to miles of sandbars, lonely hills, and bug-infested swamps. Every February and March, professional and recreational racers put their minds, muscles and machines to work in epic long-distance winter races that link Alaska's largest and smallest communities.

Management of the Historic Trail

Most of the historic Iditarod Trail is located on public lands managed by the State of Alaska or federal agencies, although some segments pass over private lands. No one entity manages the entire historic trail—management is guided by a cooperative plan adopted by state and federal agencies in the mid-1980s. The federal Bureau of Land Management coordinates cooperative management of the trail and is the primary point of contact for matters involving the entire trail.[4]

Every year local groups, community clubs and individuals contribute time and money to maintain and improve the Iditarod Trail. The statewide non-profit Iditarod National Historic Trail Inc. helps protect and improve the trail and keep the "lore of the trail" alive.[5]

Iditarod race route

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, named after the now-abandoned town of Iditarod, commemorates the last great gold rush in America to the Iditarod gold fields and the critical role that dogs played in the settlement and development of Alaska. It is a common myth that the race commemorates the dogsled relay known as the 1925 "Serum Run" from Nenana to Nome. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was first established by Joe Redington, Sr. in the early 1973 to encourage the designation of the Iditarod Trail as a National Historic Trail, bring the dying tradition of dog sledding back to the villages of Alaska, and promote the sport of competitive dogsled racing.

Today the race follows much of the primary route of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, with a segment alternating north or south, depending on the year. (These segments are also part of the Iditarod National Historic Trail). Every odd year (i.e., 2011), the race travels the south route from Ophir to Kaltag through the ghost town of Iditarod. On even years, the race travels north from Ophir through Ruby and Galena to Kaltag. The 1925 Serum Run followed 500 miles (800 km) of trail (now designated as the Iditarod National Historic Trail system) between Ruby and Nome. The Iditarod Trail Invitational[6] human powered race for fat bikers, runners and skiers also follows the Iditarod Trail from Knik to McGrath with a 350-mile race and to Nome in the 1000 mile race.


  1. ^ The Iditarod National Historic Trail Seward to Nome Route: A Comprehensive Management Plan, March 1986. Prepared by Bureau of Land Management, Anchorage District Office, Anchorage, Alaska.
  2. ^ "Last Great Race on Earth®". Iditarod. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  3. ^ "National Trails System". National Park Service. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  4. ^ "Bureau of Land Management". December 7, 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  5. ^ "Iditarod National Historic Trail". Iditarod National Historic Trail. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  6. ^

External links

2006 Iditarod

The ceremonial start of the 34th annual (XXXIV) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across the U.S. state of Alaska began amidst the crowds of Anchorage on March 4, 2006, and the start of the competitive race, or "restart", began the next day in Willow. The race followed a modified version of the northern route for 1,151 mi (1,852 km) across the Alaska Range, through the sparsely inhabited Interior, along the Yukon River, and then up the coast of the Bering Sea to the city of Nome. Unlike in previous years, where the teams had to deal with unseasonably warm temperatures and soft, mushy snow, the weather was cold, with temperatures reported as low as −40 °F (−40 °C).

Eighty three competitors started the race, eleven "scratched", and one was withdrawn from the race. The field of racers was extremely competitive, with pundits like Cabela's John Little listing more than half a dozen possible winners. The ultimate winner was Jeff King, who crossed under the "burled arch" on March 15, becoming one of the few four-time champions. Fellow four-time winner Doug Swingley of Montana came in 2nd place, followed by Paul Gebhardt. Each of the 83 teams was composed of 16 dogs, four of whom died during the event.

Note: All times are Alaska Standard Time/AKST (UTC-9).

2007 Iditarod

The ceremonial start of the 35th annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across the U.S. state of Alaska began amidst the crowds of Anchorage at 10 am (AKST) on March 3, 2007, and the start of the competitive race, or "restart", began at 2 pm the next day in Willow. The race followed the southern route for 1,151 mi (1,852 km) across the Alaska Range, through the sparsely inhabited Interior, along the Yukon River, and then up the coast of the Bering Sea to the city of Nome.

Eighty two competitors started the race. Denali, Alaska musher Jeff King returned to defend his 2006 win, and the 2005 Iditarod winner Norwegian Robert Sørlie returned after skipping the 2006 event. Both were strong favorites to win. Other contenders included 4 time winners Martin Buser and Doug Swingley. However, the race was won by Lance Mackey in 9 days, 5:08:41, with an average speed of 5.07 mph (8.16 km/h).


A bootee (also bootie or booty) is a short soft sock or bootlike garment used for warmth or protection. Bootees for babies are usually thick and knitted, to keep the baby's feet warm. Dog booties for dogs such as sledge dogs in very cold Arctic conditions (see Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race) protect the animal from the cold. Booties worn over the shoes in cold-weather biking similarly protect cyclists. Disposable socks, such as those worn for hygiene by surgical teams, are also called bootees.

Dallas Seavey

Dallas Seavey (born March 4, 1987) is an American dog musher, who won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across the U.S. state of Alaska in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2017, four of Seavey's sixteen-dog team tested positive for high doses of Tramadol, an opioid pain medication that is also a banned substance. The test was administered to four of the seven Seavey dogs that finished the race in second place, behind Seavey's father, Mitch Seavey. The Iditarod Trail Committee, which stages the event, did not discipline Seavey, nor ask him to return the $59,637 he won in prize money. The circumstances of the dosing of the four dogs and the high dosage prior to an expected test have led some to believe it was accidental or, as Seavey has claimed, an intentional attempt at sabotage by an outside party. In December of 2018, Iditarod cleared Dallas Seavey in the dog-doping scandal.

Dick Wilmarth

Dick Wilmarth (c.1942 – March 21, 2018) was a miner and trapper from Red Devil, Alaska who won the inaugural Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1973 with lead dog Hotfoot.

In a 2001 interview with the Anchorage Daily News, Wilmarth said he saw the 1973 Iditarod as not really a sled dog race but more of a time to enjoy the Alaska wilderness with friends. He assembled a 12-dog team just a few months before the race, obtaining dogs from Native villages on the Kuskokwim River.

Thirty-five dog teams started the 1973 race and twenty-two finished. Competing in what would be his only Iditarod, Wilmarth won in a time of in 20 days, 49 minutes, 41 seconds, claiming the first-place prize money of $12,000. Almost two weeks behind him was John Schultz who became the recipient of the first ever "Red Lantern" award given to the last musher to cross the finish line in Nome, Alaska.

Dorothy G. Page

Dorothy G. Page (January 23, 1921 – November 16, 1989) was best known as "Mother of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race", the 1,049-mile (about 1,600 km) dog sled race across the U.S. state of Alaska.

Page moved from New Mexico to Alaska in 1960. She then became the president of the Phillip-Knik Centennial Committee in 1966, and was in charge of coming up with an event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the purchase of Alaska from Russia. In her own words, the self-described "history buff" wanted "a spectacular dog race to wake Alaskans up to what mushers and their dogs had done for Alaska."Page saw her first dog sled race in 1960. At the time, nearly every household in the rural Alaska Bush and Interior had a team of sled dogs for transportation. During the 1960s snowmachines started to replace the dogs, which all but vanished. The historic Iditarod Trail that passed through both Wasilla and Knik was an ideal stage. Dog mushing had been the primary means of communication and transportation in the Bush and Interior by Alaska Natives for centuries; remained so for the Russian, American, and French Canadian fur trappers in the 19th century; and reached its peak during the gold rushes of the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

Page was unable to get the support of a single dog musher until she met Joe Redington, Senior (the "Father of the Iditarod") at the Willow Winter Carnival. Redington used dog teams to perform search and rescue for the U.S. Air Force, and owned a large kennel. He also had been lobbying to make the Iditarod Trail a National Historic Trail since the 1950s. Redington agreed to lend his support to the event, on the condition that a purse of USD $25,000 be divided among the winners.

The money was raised. In February 1967, 58 dog mushers competed in two heats along a 25-mile (40 km) stretch of the old Iditarod Trail between Wasilla and Knik. The race was modeled after the first large dog sled race in the state, the 1908 to 1918 All-Alaska Sweepstakes (AAS) of Nome. The official name of the event was the Iditarod Trail Seppala Memorial Race, after the three-time Sweepstakes champion Leonhard Seppala. While Seppala was most famous for participating in the 1925 serum run which saved the city of Nome from a diphtheria epidemic, according to Page "Seppala was picked to represent all mushers... but it could just as easily have been named after Scotty Allan" (the founder of the AAS).

In 1968 the race was canceled due to lack of snow, and the 1969 race was the last: With a purse of only $1,000, only 12 mushers participated. The Iditarod was held in 1973, largely due to Redington's efforts. The route of the race was extended more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to Nome, and a purse of $51,000 was raised. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has since grown into the premiere sporting event in the state, and the largest dog sled race in the world. The popularity also caused dog mushing to revive in the 1970s as a recreational sport.

Page also helped form the Iditarod Trail Committee, which organizes the race, and the Musher's Hall of Fame in Knik. She served four terms on the Wasilla City Council, and was Mayor from 1986 to 1987. She volunteered as the President of the Wasilla-Knik-Willow Creek Historical Society, and was the curator of the Wasilla and Knik museums.

Page died on November 16, 1989. Despite her contributions to the sport, she was never a musher. After her death, the Wasilla Museum was renamed the Dorothy G. Page Museum in her honor. She is also commemorated by the Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award, given to the first musher to reach the midpoint of the race, in Cripple on even-numbered years, and the trail's namesake of Iditarod on odd-numbered years. She was named the honorary musher during the 1997 Iditarod.


A fatbike (also called fat bike or fat-tire bike) is an off-road bicycle with oversized tires, typically 3.8 in (97 mm) or larger and rims 2.16 in (55 mm) or wider, designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft, unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs and mud. Fatbikes are built around frames with wide forks and stays to accommodate the wide rims required to fit these tires. The wide tires can be used with inflation pressures as low as 340 hPa; 0.34 bar (5 psi) to allow for a smooth ride over rough obstacles. A rating of 550–690 hPa; 0.55–0.69 bar (8–10 psi) is suitable for the majority of riders.

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome, entirely within the US state of Alaska. Mushers and a team of 14 dogs, of which at least 5 must be on the towline at the finish line, cover the distance in 8–15 days or more.[1] The Iditarod began in 1973 as an event to test the best sled dog mushers and teams but evolved into today's highly competitive race. Then a record, the second fastest winning time was recorded in 2016 by Dallas Seavey with a time of 8 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes, and 16 seconds. As of 2012, Dallas Seavey was also the youngest musher to win the race at the age of 25. In 2017, at the age of 57, Dallas's father, Mitch Seavey, is the oldest and fastest person ever to win the race, crossing the line in Nome in 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds. Dallas finished second, two hours and 44 minutes behind.Teams generally race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach −100 °F (−73 °C). A ceremonial start occurs in the city of Anchorage and is followed by the official restart in Willow, a city 80 mi (128.75 km) north of Anchorage. The restart was originally in Wasilla through 2007, but due to little snow, the restart has been at Willow since 2008. The trail runs from Willow up the Rainy Pass of the Alaska Range into the sparsely populated interior, and then along the shore of the Bering Sea, finally reaching Nome in western Alaska. The trail is through a harsh landscape of tundra and spruce forests, over hills and mountain passes, and across rivers. While the start in Anchorage is in the middle of a large urban center, most of the route passes through widely separated towns and villages, and small Athabaskan and Iñupiat settlements. The Iditarod is regarded as a symbolic link to the early history of the state and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.

The race is a very important and popular sporting event in Alaska, and the top mushers and their teams of dogs are local celebrities; this popularity is credited with the resurgence of recreational mushing in the state since the 1970s. While the yearly field of more than fifty mushers and about a thousand dogs is still largely Alaskan, competitors from fourteen countries have completed the event including the Swiss Martin Buser, who became the first foreign winner in 1992.

The Iditarod received more attention outside of the state after the 1985 victory of Libby Riddles, a long-shot who became the first woman to win the race. The next year, Susan Butcher became the second woman to win the race and went on to win three more years. Print and television journalists and crowds of spectators attend the ceremonial start at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and D Street in Anchorage and in smaller numbers at the checkpoints along the trail.

Joe Redington

Joe Redington, Senior (February 1, 1917 – June 24, 1999) was an American dog musher and kennel owner, who is best known as the "Father of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race", a long distance sled dog race run annually from the Anchorage area to Nome, Alaska.

Kevin of the North

Kevin of the North is a 2001 Canadian comedy film directed by Bob Spiers. It stars Skeet Ulrich, Natasha Henstridge, Leslie Nielsen, and Rik Mayall and is about an Alaskan Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in which Kevin Manley, whose grandfather has passed on and now must participate in the state's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in order to prove he's worthy enough for his grandfather's estate. The film was released to DVD in the United States with the alternate title of Chilly Dogs on February 4, 2003.

Lance Mackey

Lance Mackey (born June 2, 1970) is an American dog musher and dog sled racer from Fairbanks, Alaska, who is a four-time winner of the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest and four-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Libby Riddles

Libby Riddles (born April 1, 1956) is an American dog musher, and the first woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.Riddles was born in Madison, Wisconsin to Willard and Mary Riddles, and moved to Alaska (from Minnesota; she had been living in St. Joseph while attending Apollo High School in St. Cloud) just before her 17th birthday. She saw a sprint race and fell in love with mushing. Her first race was the Clines Mini Mart Sprint race in 1978, in which she won first place. After finishing 18th and 20th in the 1980 and 1981 Iditarod races, she decided to breed her own sled dogs in order to advance. She moved to Shaktoolik, Alaska and worked as a fish seller for a short period while training her dogs, then moved to Teller, Alaska where she met Joe Garnie; they became partners and started breeding and training dogs together.

On March 20, 1985 Riddles won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, becoming the first woman to do so. She wrote three books about her adventures and also became a professional speaker. In 2007, her Iditarod Trail Race victory was inducted as a "Hall of Fame Moment" into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.After winning the Iditarod, she decided to live like an Alaska Native for six years.

Mitch Seavey

Mitch Seavey (born 1959) is an American dog musher, who won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across the U.S. state of Alaska in 2004, 2013 and 2017. At age 57, Seavey is the oldest person to win the Iditarod in 2017 (surpassing his record in 2013 at age 53). His son, Dallas Seavey, won the 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Iditarod; his 2012 win made him the youngest winner ever.Seavey competed in his first Iditarod in 1982, and has completed every race since 1995. In the 1995 race, he started in Seward, and completed the entire length of the Iditarod Trail. He won the 2004 Iditarod in 9 days, 12 hours, 20 minutes, and 22 seconds. He has also won the Copper Basin 300 twice, the Klondike 300, the Kusko 300, and the Grand Portage Passage race in the state of Minnesota once. In 2008 he won the historic All Alaska Sweepstakes race with a record-breaking time of 74 hours, 14 minutes and 37 seconds. .Seavey was born in Minnesota, and grew up in Seward, Alaska. He lives in Sterling, Alaska with his wife Janine and four sons Dallas, Danny, Tyrell and Conway where they run the Ididaride Sled Dog Tours. Danny has run in the Iditarod, and in the 2005 Iditarod both Tyrell and Dallas competed. Dallas won the 2012 Iditarod, becoming the youngest winner; Mitch became the oldest to win in 2013. In 2015, Mitch and Dallas became the first father and son duo in Iditarod history to claim the top two finishing positions of the race with Dallas arriving at the finish line first and Mitch coming in second.Seavey runs a dog sled tour out of Seward, Alaska which allows people from all over the country to experience dog sledding without having to run the iditarod.

Murder on the Iditarod Trail

Murder on the Iditarod Trail (ISBN 978-0-380-71758-3) is a book written by Sue Henry and published by Avon Books in 1991, which later went on to win the Anthony Award for Best First Novel in 1992.

Ophir, Alaska

Ophir is an unincorporated area located in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area in the U.S. state of Alaska.

It was named by miners after the wealthy land of Ophir mentioned in the Old Testament. The area was the site of a gold rush in 1906. Ophir reached a peak population of 122 in 1910.

Ophir is now abandoned, but serves as a checkpoint in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. An airport with a single gravel runway exists at the village, built prior to 1949. It is currently in disuse and unmaintained.

There are a number of creeks near Ophir, all on the west bank of the Innoko, where gold placers were located starting about 1906. Yankee Creek is the closest to the source of the river, then Ganes, Little and Spruce Creeks, all above Ophir Creek. The original Iditarod trail ran above Ganes Creek in the summer, down the Innoko valley in the winter; the current race trail goes through the old townsite, which was destroyed in a brush fire started by a camper in the 1970s, and is a rest stop.

Mining still goes on at Ganes and Little Creeks, and probably at Ophir Creek (2006). Further downriver, on the east side, there were mining operations at Folger, Cripple, Bear and Colorado Creeks. Bear Creek and Colorado still are actively mined (2006). Mining of tailings was underway at Cripple in 2010.

There were at least eight mining operations near Ophir in 1949, including two dredges, but $35 gold winnowed them down to none by about 1955. Ophir's population was (an estimated) 18 in 1960. There was sporadic mining after that, with new operations starting in the 1970s.

Rick Swenson

Rick Swenson, sometimes known as the "King of the Iditarod", (born 1950 in Willmar, Minnesota), is an American dog musher who has won the 1,049-mile (1688.2 km) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across the U.S. state of Alaska more times than any other competitor. He won five times, in 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1991, and is the only person to win in three separate decades. He won his first Iditarod race at the age of 27.

Swenson competed in the Iditarod for the first time in 1976, placing 12th. The next year, he beat Jerry Riley by just 4 minutes and 52 seconds, and became known for close finishes. Swenson has won by less than an hour four times, and by less than five minutes twice. Between 1976 and 2012, he has entered the race 36 times and has completed 34 Iditarods, more than any other musher, finished in the top ten 24 times and has won $612,576 in prizes, third among all entrants. He was awarded Sportsmanship awards in 1983 and 1996, and the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian award for dog care twice, in 1992 and 2004.

The most controversial finish in the history of the Iditarod is his 1978 loss to Dick Mackey. Swenson believed he had won—he personally crossed the finish line before Mackey. But Mackey had more dogs and a longer harness, and the nose of his lead dog crossed the finish line in 14 days, 18 hours, 52 minutes, and 24 seconds, one second ahead of the nose of Swenson's lead dog.

Swenson moved to Alaska in 1973 to run sled dogs. He lived first in Eureka, then moved to Two Rivers in the late 1980s. He has been a fur trapper, gold prospector, and is currently a kennel owner. He also enjoys woodworking and is the father of three children. He is a member of the Alaska Miner Association, Two Rivers Mushing Association, and is on the board of directors of the Iditarod Trail Committee, which manages the race. As of 2012, he has stopped competing in the Iditarod.

Susan Butcher

Susan Howlet Butcher (December 26, 1954 – August 5, 2006) was an American dog musher, noteworthy as the second woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1986, the second four-time winner in 1990, and the first to win four out of five sequential years. She is commemorated in Alaska by the Susan Butcher Day.

Unalakleet River

The Unalakleet River in the U.S. state of Alaska flows southwest 90 miles (145 km) from the Kaltag Mountains to near the town of Unalakleet, on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea.In 1980, the upper 80 miles (130 km) of the river was protected as "wild" as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the wild segment of the river is fished for king and silver salmon, Arctic grayling, and char. Other forms of recreation along the river include boating and camping in summer and snowmobiling, dog mushing, ice fishing, hunting, and trapping in winter. For part of its length, the Iditarod Trail runs along the Unalakleet.


Woodsong is a book of memoirs by Gary Paulsen. The first half consists of Paulsen's early experiences running sled dogs in Minnesota and then in Alaska, and the second half describes the roads and animals he faces in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

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