What are National Trails?
The Iditarod National Historic Trail is one of a number of trails designated by Congress in recognition of their significance as scenic, recreational or historic transportation routes. The Iditarod was specifically designated for its historic importance. The system was created to provide areas of hiking and for meeting the outdoor recreation needs of an ever-expanding urban population.

Alaska national Parks

Which trails are designated as National Trails?
Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail -- E Mau Na Ala Hele
Appalachian National Scenic Trail -- Appalachian Trail Conservancy
California National Historic Trail -- Oregon-California Trails Association
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail -- Friends of the Captain John Smith Trail
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail -- Continental Divide Trail Alliance, Continental Divide Trail Society
El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail -- El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association (CARTA)
Florida National Scenic Trail -- Florida Trail Association
Ice Age National Scenic Trail -- Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation, Inc.
Iditarod National Historic Trail -- Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail -- Amigos de Anza, Anza Trail Coalition of Arizona, Web de Anza
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail --Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Inc., National Council for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial,
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail -- Mormon Trails Association Iowa, Mormon Trails Association
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail -- Nez Perce Trail Foundation
North Country National Scenic Trail -- North Country Trail Association
Old Spanish National Historic Trail -- Old Spanish Trail Association
Oregon National Historic Trail -- Oregon-California Trails Association
Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail -- Overmountain Victory Trail Association
Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail -- Pacific Crest Trail Association
Pony Express National Historic Trail -- National Pony Express Association, Pony Express Trail Association
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail -- Potomac Heritage Trail Association, Allegheny Trail Alliance, Inc., C&O Canal Association
Santa Fe National Historic Trail -- Santa Fe Trail Association
Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail -- Selma to Montgomery NHT Association
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail -- Trail of Tears Association

Who owns the Iditarod trail?

Because the Iditarod is such a complex trail system, stretching from Seward in the south, to Nome (mile 926) on the Bering Sea, it crosses lands owned by several Native corporations, municipal governments and the State of Alaska as well as federal lands managed by the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Defense. In all there are 10 institutional land managers and numerous private owners.

The Iditarod National Historic Trail
Seward to Nome

Steamboat "Reliance" on the
Iditarod River, 1911
Iditarod is a magical word not only in Alaska, but also in the Nation and in many other parts of the world. It is a word that raises different images and emotions in different people. To the oldest Alaskan Natives, it recalls the approximate name of a 19th century Athabaskan Indian village on a small river now also called Iditarod. To "Sourdoughs" and others familiar with the State's history, IDITAROD refers to the now-abandoned Gold Rush town of the 1910's and it's associated mining district in South central Alaska. More technically, to the historian, IDITAROD refers to the 1910 Seward-to-Nome mail trail surveyed by the U.S. Army's Alaska Road Commission. Yet today the name IDITAROD, above all in National recognition, symbolizes the dramatic, long distance sled dog race between Anchorage and Nome held each March since 1973.

In November of 1978, IDITAROD took on still another meaning when the National Trails System Act was amended. At the urging of the public, Congress created a new category of the National Trails when the Lewis and Clark, the Oregon, the Mormon-Pioneer, and the Iditarod were designated as National Historic Trails.

Traveling on the trail was a challenge
for even the hardiest of pioneers.
The Iditarod National Historic Trail (Iditarod NHT) is composed of the federally administered areas of the Gold Rush Trail network which connect Seward in southern Alaska with Nome in northwestern Alaska via the Iditarod Mining District. The 938-mile Trail, commonly known as the "Iditarod Trail" during the Iditarod Gold Rush of the 1910's, was formally constructed by the Alaska Road Commission under the direction of Walter L. Goodwin during 1910-11. This constitutes the Iditarod NHT's "Primary Route." Yet branching from the primary route are hundreds of miles of land and water based routes and trails. They were important not only during the 1910's, but also during the entire Gold Rush Period in Interior Alaska from the 1880's into the 1920's, with some based on even earlier Indian Trails.In addition to the trails used during this period, other route used yearly in the IDITAROD TRAIL SLED DOG RACE are also part of this Trail System. Collectively, these trail segments and associated historic sites make up what is referred to as the IDITAROD NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL SYSTEM.

Though the IDITAROD NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL SYSTEM currently includes only the federally administered portions of the Gold Rush trail system, the remainder of the network will be recognized officially as components of the National Trail System once cooperative agreements between the Secretary of the Interior and the non-federal land managers are executed.

Archeologists for the Bureau of Land Management, examine the remains of an old dog barn near Pioneer Roadhouse, Mile 330 on the Iditarod Trail.

The Iditarod National Historic Trail Comprehensive Management Plan, as mandated by Congress, represents the cooperative efforts of the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the State of Alaska, the Iditarod National Historic Trail Advisory Council, various local governments, Native corporations, and interest groups, as well as hundreds of individuals. Together, these agencies, groups, and individuals have proposed a cooperative management philosophy.

This management philosophy, which is based on the spirit of cooperation and on formal agreements, seems particularly appropriate for Alaska. The entire Trail system would be managed as a unit by a coalition of volunteer Trail organizations in partnership with the local land managers who are ultimately responsible for the various segments of the Trail.

Survey party of the Goodwin
expedition around 1911

The IDITAROD NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL is unique in Alaskan and American history. It represents the last vestiges of a truly remote and wild trail system which today remains much the same as it was 75 years ago. We trust that as stewards of this remarkable nonrenewable resource, we will work cooperatively to preserve a prominent part of America's past for future generations who will treasure this resource as much as or more than we do today.

Iditasport Race 1989 - © BLM photograph

The Iditarod Trail Today

Unlike the Appalachian or Pacific Crest national trails which are located near heavily populated areas, most of the Iditarod is located in remote areas with sparse populations. The Iditarod evolved as a winter access route to various mining districts. As a result, the trail tended to follow features which required little to no construction. Swamps, tundra bogs, lakes and unbridged rivers became pathways during the long winter. Most current use occurs when the tundra and rivers are frozen and easier to cross.

Today, only a small portion of the trail can be hiked during the summer months due to the thick wet tundra vegetation and voracious mosquitoes on much of the trail. However, short segments of the trail can be hiked near Seward on the Chugach National Forest or near Anchorage on Chugach State Park. Visitors to Nome can also follow the trail east of town along the Bering Sea coast. Winter trail users include dog mushers, skiers, snowmachiners and even mountain bikers.

Bison -- A wild self-sustaining herd of American bison (Bison bison) is located near Farewell, Alaska. North American bison also known as Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) were once part of the native Alaska fauna. These bison became extinct in Alaska only a few hundred years ago. The reason for this relatively recent extinction is not known for certain. Some scientists have suggested that it might have been caused by over hunting by early humans and/or changes in the bison's habitat. Wood Bison can still be found in some areas of Canada.

In addition to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, other competitive events include the Iron Dog -- Gold Rush Classic Snowmachine race (the World's longest) which is run from near Anchorage to Nome and back, and the Iditasport human endurance competition for skiers, runners, and mountain bikers.









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Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance
(Iditarod National Historic Trail, Inc.)
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