An in-depth and interesting series of articles about the history of mushing in Alaska can be found at the BLM Alaska web site, including the article, From Babiche Webbing to Kevlar Runners—An Intro to Alaska Dog Mushing History. The emphasis is on the Iditarod Trail, as under the National Trails Act, the Bureau of Land Management is the designated Trail Administrator for the Iditarod National Historic Trail, “a 2,300-mile system of winter trails that first connected ancient Alaska Native villages, opened up Alaska for the last great American gold rush, and now plays a vital role for travel and recreation in modern day Alaska.”
BLM Alaska maintains about 150 miles of the Iditarod trail, including five public shelter cabins. A good explanation of trail ownership and management can be found on this page. In short, “No one entity manages the entire historic trail – management is guided by a cooperative plan adopted in the mid-1980s.”
In conjunction with their caretaking responsibilities, BLM Alaska maintains a wonderful page relating to the historic Iditarod Trail. An in-depth historic overview includes details about the surveying and improvement of the trail, early roadhouses and mining camps, use of the trail as a winter mail route, and some of the colorful mushers who traveled it such as Bob Griffis and Harry Revell.
The section on dog mushing history includes a sidebar highlighting places along the trail such as Seward, Anchorage, Knik, Iditarod, and Nome; brief profiles of mushers such as Oscar Tryck, Jujiro Wada, and the Nollner Brothers; travel via dogteam, riverboat, and airplane; and a good explanation of the race behind the birth of sled dog racing, Nome’s famed All Alaska Sweepstakes, a 408-mile event which patterned itself after the Kentucky Derby and made household names of champions Scotty Allan and Leonhard Seppala.
Most interesting to this reader is the Iditarod Oral History Project, with recordings and transcripts of many people who have lived and worked along the historic Iditarod Trail. From the early days of the mining camps at Flat and Iditarod to the mushers who ran the 1925 Serum Run, from working on the riverboats to running the roadhouses along the trail, these first-hand accounts are the purest form of history.
Be sure to also check out BLM Alaska’s page on the 2016 Idita-Chat!