Mushing in Alaska
Dog sledding, more popularly called mushing, traces its roots back to the Eskimos of the 15th century. It remained a primary mode of winter transportation in Alaska’s bush country until pilots began flying air routes in the 1920’s.
Alaskans have been racing dogs since the early 1900’s. The All Alaska Sweepstakes race began in 1908 traveling between Nome and Candle. Today, the most famous race in the sport, the Iditarod, takes place every March. It begins in Anchorage and ands Nome, following an old supply route. It is said to have been inspired in part, by the famous Serum Run of 1925.
Nome was stricken with a diphtheria epidemic in 1925. Isolated by winter wilderness with no feasible way of getting in or out of Nome, the residents sent an urgent plea for help via wireless transmitter. The only possible way to get the serum to Nome was by dog sled.
Mushers departed from Nome and Nenana and relayed the serum from one team to the next until they were able to rendezvous 250 miles from Nome. Leonhard Seppala, the greatest musher at the time, helped deliver 300,000 units of serum in time to save the village.
Today, mushing is mostly a recreational sport. Some mush for sheer pleasure while others compete in a wide variety of races. Races range from sprint mushing to long distance events such as the Yukon Quest and Iditarod. During the month of March, the whole state of Alaska tunes in to daily updates on the progress of the Iditarod racers.
Mushing in Alaska
From necessity to recreation, mushing has been a part of Alaska’s culture since the 15th century. Today, mushing is primarily a competitive sport, dogs are kept in shape during the summer using wheel-pulled carts.
Find out how you can experience mushing first hand with Iditarod winner Jeff King.
Do you want to try it?
Princess offers you many opportunities to learn about mushing first hand. In Denali, we have teamed up with three-time Iditarod winner Jeff King, for a personal tour of his homestead and kennel. You will also get a chance to meet his and his wife, well-known wildlife artist Donna Gates King. The tour can be booked at the Outfitter desk at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.
During the summer months, mushers use wheeled carts to keep their dogs in shape for the winter sporting events. At the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, Princess offers the opportunity to learn about mushing by actually riding in a training sled with real dogs. A local musher brings his team right to the entrance of the lodge and offers you the chance to go for a ride!
The Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge offers an incredible dogsled adventure combining a thrilling helicopter ride with mushing on the massive Sargent Ice field. Your flight will take you over the glacial ice fields nestled in the Chugach National Forest only to land at a remote dogsled camp on a glacier! The mushing portion of the tour features a top Iditarod team and last for about an hour of mushing. You then helicopter back down from the glacier.
There are many ways to discover the vast Alaska wilderness and its unique way of life. What better way to learn about it than from the back of a sled piloted by one of Alaska’s great mushers.