Between 1908 and 1911, when the Alaska Road Commission was building a winter overland trail between Seward and Nome for the delivery of mail, it became clear that a branch trail to the growing support town of Iditarod and other supply towns was needed. Much of the original trail followed established, traditional travel routes used by Native Alaskans for thousands of years. This trail system became known as the Iditarod Trail, now a designated National Historic Trail. The gold boom was short lived. Supply towns and roadhouses such as Simels, Dikeman, Rennies Landing, and Schermeirs were abandoned and now only serve as historical and cultural resources on the refuge. In 1978, Congress amended the National Trails System Act to include the Iditarod National Historic Trail. This designated historic trail includes the main trail, which stretches for 938 miles, hundreds of miles of subsidiary and branch trails (and water routes); and the routes currently used in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. A major portion of the trail system, connecting Kaltag on the Yukon River with the mining towns of Flat and Iditarod by way of Dishkakat and Dikeman, passes through the Innoko Refuge. There are also other mining camps and trail segments in the area that are associated with the Iditarod Trail.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service entered into an interagency agreement with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management concerning the Iditarod National Historic Trail. In the agreement, “the agencies agree to encourage and protect continued public use of trail segments in a manner which recognizes the historic values of the [trail], utilizing right-of-way, easements, management corridors, cooperative agreements with adjacent land owners, and access improvements and side trails as appropriate.”
Today’s Iditarod Sled Dog Race follows trails located just outside the refuge’s southern boundary (Southern Route) in odd years and outside the eastern boundary to the north (Northern Route) in even years. Staff members routinely volunteer to provide community support during this event.
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The Innoko National Wildlife Refuge hosts a wide variety of wildlife ranging from tiny shrews to the Alaskan moose, (the largest member of the deer family), from small song birds to the symbol of our nation - the bald eagle.