In the early 1920’s, settlers had come to Alaska following a gold strike. They traveled by boat to the coastal towns of Seward and Knik and from there, by land into the gold fields. The trail they used is today known as The Iditarod Trail, one of the National Historic Trails as so designated by the Congress of the United States. In the winter, their only means of travel was by dog team.
The Iditarod Trail soon became the major “thoroughfare” through Alaska. Mail was carried across this trail, people used the trail to get from place to place and supplies were transported via the Iditarod Trail. Priests, ministers and judges traveled between villages via dog team.
All too soon the gold mining began to slack off. People began to go back to where they had come from and suddenly there was less travel on the Iditarod Trail. The use of the airplane in the late 1920’s signaled the beginning of the end for the dog team as a standard mode of transportation, and of course with the airplane carrying the mail, there was less need for land travel. The final blow to the use of the dog team came with the appearance of snowmobiles in Alaska.
The Iditarod is run each year to commemorate the emergency delivery in 1925 of diphtheria antitoxin to Nome, Alaska. Nome in 1925 had changed from a booming, boisterous turn-of-the-century gold-rush camp into a small, quite town of about 1,500 people. It was fifteen years since the end of the gold-rush, but Nome remained an important settlement on the Seward Peninsula.
(stolen from the web)
The race originally began in Anchorage, but when freeways and urban life got in the way, the official start was moved to Wasilla, AK. After more urban sprawl, the official race start was moved to Willow, AK. The Anchorage portion of the race is ceremonial with each musher carrying a paying passenger on their sled for about a 10 mile ride. The mushers pack and and drive to Willow for the official start of the race.