By Katherine Schake
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the designation of the Iditarod National Historic Trail by Congress, and the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act. Traversing a 2400-mile network across Alaska from Seward to Nome (the direct route being 1000 miles), the Iditarod National Historic Trail is the only Congressionally-designated National Historic Trail in Alaska. Originally a transportation route for the Tanaina, Ingalik, Inupiaq, and Yupik people of the region, it has been a vital travel and trading network for thousands of years. During the early 1900s the trail was further developed to support the prospectors arriving in search of gold.
After the advent of rail lines and bush planes, the importance of the Iditarod Trail as a service trail dwindled. The trail deteriorated. Citizens led by Joe Redington, Sr. worked to improve the trail and elevate its story. On May 17th, 1978 a U.S. Senate report stated, “Nowhere in the National Trail System is there such an extensive landscape, so demanding of durability and skill during its winter season of travel. On the Iditarod, today’s adventurer can duplicate the experience and challenge of yesteryear.” (U.S. Dept of the Interior, BLM)
Today, citizens are again mobilizing to rebuild the Iditarod, portions of which are popular recreational trails including Crow Pass in summer and Indian Pass in winter. The Chugach National Forest along with the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance and partners Alaska Trails, Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area (KMTA), Girdwood Trails Committee, and Seward Trailblazers are working together to promote and maintain the Iditarod National Historic Trail. To cultivate stewardship and make groundbreaking improvements, multiple volunteer events will be hosted throughout the summer. Mark your calendars for:
June 3rd, Seward: Seward Iditarod Trailblazers celebrate 40th anniversary recognition of the of the Iditarod National Historic Trail celebration. Food and Fun!
June 9th, Moose Pass: Chugach National Forest stewardship event at Victor to Rocky Creek Trail
July 14th, Girdwood: Chugach National Forest stewardship event at Upper Winner Creek Trail
August 25th, Girdwood: Chugach National Forest stewardship event at Crow Pass
Visit the Chugach National Forest or Alaska Trail Stewards website (www.alaska-trails.org/current-volunteer-events.html) for more details or to sign up for stewardship events.
The first 180 miles of Iditarod trail from Seward to Crow Pass lie within the KMTA National Heritage Area. KMTA supports projects that recognize, preserve, and interpret the historic, scenic, and natural recreational resources and cultural landscapes of the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm historic transportation corridor. The next grant application period opens June 1st. For more information visit www.kmtacorridor.org/grants/