Iditarod Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Nola Bridgens

Nola has taught elementary school and tutored for four years. She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, a master's degree in Marketing, and is a certified teacher.

Have you ever seen ''Balto'' or read ''Call of the Wild'' and dreamed of racing a team of dogs in an adventurous dogsled race? The Iditarod is the most famous dogsled race and in this lesson we will learn all about it.

Last Great Race on Earth®

The Iditarod is a nearly 1,000 mile dogsled race through the snowy wilderness of Alaska. The trail runs from Anchorage to Nome and takes about two weeks to complete. Each musher, the driver of the dogsled, has about 16 sled dogs that pull the sled through the treacherous winter terrain. The mushers train and plan for years to compete in the famous Iditarod.

Musher and sled dogs

History of the Iditarod

Many towns in Alaska like Fairbanks, Juneau, and Nome began to grow quickly due to the gold rushes in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Many of these towns were accessible only by steamboats on the river. However, when the rivers froze, there was no way to get to and from the towns. In 1910, the need for year-round access to all the gold mining towns was crucial, so the federal government constructed a trail for winter use from Seward to Nome for dogsleds. This trail became known as the Iditarod Trail. The trail was used by hundreds of mushers and dogsled teams to get freight and mail to the towns. However, in 1924, Alaska's first aircraft could make the trip much faster than dogsleds. From this point forward, the Iditarod Trail was used less and less as airplanes began to take over.

The Iditarod Trail had one more shining moment when a diphtheria epidemic struck Nome in the winter of 1925. There was a serum in Anchorage that could cure diphtheria, but there was no way to get the serum to the people of Nome. The city was not accessible by boat due to icy rivers and there was only one pilot who was skilled enough to fly in the dangerous winter conditions and he was not available. Without the serum, the people of Nome, particularly the children, would be in grave danger. A relay of 20 mushers was quickly organized and combined they traveled nearly 700 miles in treacherous conditions to deliver the serum to Nome and save hundreds of lives. The Iditarod Trail had come to the rescue at a very crucial time.

Now every year on the first Saturday in March, dozens of mushers and dogsled teams line up in Anchorage and travel the historic Iditarod Trail in hopes of making it to Nome first. The race commemorates the important role sled dogs and the Iditarod Trail played in the settling of Alaska.

The Trail


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