A Chronology of the Trail
Pre-Euro Contact. NATIVE PEOPLE FROM THE SEWARD PENINSULA TO PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND MAKE TRAILS LATER USED AS THE IDITAROD TRAIL.
Across Alaska, Eskimo, Athapaskan, and Aleut peoples develop trails for subsistence, village activities, trade, and inter-group raids. Use of dogs and sleds for travel between villages and camps develops; average team is three dogs, although may have five dogs.
1843. KALTAG PORTAGE DISCOVERED BY RUSSIANS.
Lieutenant Lavrenti Zagoskin of the Russian Navy discovers a long-hidden Eskimo-Athabascan Native trade route and between the Bering Sea and the Yukon River. Russian fur trading parties begin using the route, now called the Kaltag Portage, to reach their trading post at Nulato.
1867. ALASKA PURCHASED BY UNITED STATES.
American fur trading companies take over Russian trading posts, continue to use the Kaltag Portage, and use the Yukon River Trail to trade for furs.
1900. NOME BECOMES INSTANT CITY.
Word of gold discoveries in the beach sands causes one of the Alaska’s greatest gold rushes. By summer 1900, between 20,000 and 30,000 people are at Nome. Many travel by river boat down the Yukon from the Klondike, then over the Kaltag Portage to Nome. U.S. Postal Service contracts the first regular mail service: weekly between Dawson and Nome, or about 1,600 miles.
1903. SEWARD FOUNDED AS START OF RAILROAD TO LINK COAST AND INTERIOR.
The Alaska Central RR clears land for a town on Resurrection Bay and begins railroad construction north in hopes of reaching new gold fields near the Tanana River.
1908. SEWARD TO NOME ROUTE EXPLORED.
To link the ice-free port of Seward and the new gold mining towns in the Innoko District, the Alaska Road Commission directs Colonel Walter Goodwin and a crew of three to scout a winter trail from Seward to Nome. The expedition starts in Seward on January 31st and finishes April 5th in Nome; Goodwin estimates entire route is used by only 20 prospectors that winter.
1908. CHRISTMAS DAY GOLD STRIKE ON OTTER CREEK, A TRIBUTARY OF THE HAIDITAROD (IDITAROD) RIVER, BY BEACON AND DYCHMAN (DIKEMAN).
1910-11. AK ROAD COMMISSION SPENDS $10,000 TO CONSTRUCT SEWARD TO NOME TRAIL.
Roughly following his 1908 route, Col. Goodwin starts in Nome in November 1910 and works south, brushing and marking a trail. Goodwin’s crew adds a side trail from Dishkaket to Dikeman, marks the trail from Iditarod to Takotna, and shortens the trail from near McGrath to the Farewell Lake. Anton Eide works the other end from Susitna Station to Hayes River. Goodwin’s 10-man, 42-dog team departs from Nome on November 9, 1910, and arrives in Seward on February 25, 1911.
1910-12. TEN THOUSAND STAMPEDERS RUSH TO MINING CAMPS BETWEEN IDITAROD AND RUBY.
1912. ALASKA BECOMES A TERRITORY.
1914. U.S. MAIL CARRIED OVER "IDITAROD TRAIL."
Harry Revell receives the first contract to carry the winter mail between Seward and Iditarod. Other mail contracts link all the way to Nome. Wells Fargo carries one million dollars in gold from Iditarod to Seward in 37 days by dog team.
1914. U.S. GOVERNMENT STARTS CONSTRUCTION OF ALASKA RAILROAD.
Authorities decide to locate a construction camp on upper Cook Inlet, on the western flank of the Chugach Mountains.
1918. THE STAMPEDE IS OVER.
New mail contracts bypass Iditarod in favor of a shorter route by other means. Wells Fargo dog sled “gold trains” make their last trek to Seward. Roadhouses, usually spaced a day’s journey apart, begin to close. World War I draws young miners and workers away from the goldfields.
1925. DIPTHERIA EPIDEMIC THREATENS NOME.
An outbreak of diphtheria catches the icebound town of Nome without enough serum to inoculate the community. Twenty dog mushers relay serum 674 miles from Nenana by way of the Iditarod Trail, reaching Nome in a little over 5 days.
1973. THE FIRST IDITAROD SLED DOG RACE IS RUN TO NOME.
Twenty-two mushers successfully complete the first Anchorage to Nome Sled Dog Race, with the winner traveling the 1,000 mile distance in just over 20 days.
1978. IDITAROD NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL ESTABLISHED BY CONGRESS.
The Iditarod Trail and three other American pioneering routes are designated as the first National Historic Trails. As part of the National Trail System, Historic Trails commemorate major journeys that helped form America. Today, only 16 Historic Trails have won the prestigious designation as part of the National Trail System.