Sled Dogs, Denali National Park and Preserve
On my must-do list for Alaska was playing with sled dog puppies and boy did I get my fill of that and then some at Husky Homestead. They offer a range of tour times throughout the day and I was very happy that there was a tour in the evening so we could do something fun right when we arrived in Denali in the afternoon. The Husky Homestead is about a 15 minute shuttle bus ride from Glitter Gulch, where most of the stores and hotels are outside of Denali. The shuttle is free and picks up from most Denali hotels. Husky Homestead and owned and operated by 4-time Iditarod champion Jeff King and his family. Once you hop off the shuttle, someone hands you a puppy. These are the most adorable puppies I’ve ever seen! There are plenty to go around and they are of various ages. Some of the puppies were sleepy since it was already evening and feel asleep while being held. Other puppies were howling and giving kisses! Absolutely adorable! Employees take your photo with the puppies and the photos are for sale at the end of the tour. After everyone gets their fill of puppy holding, there is a presentation by a trainer about what the kennel is about and how they train their dogs. We watched them hook up dogs to an ATV for a training run and the dogs all went crazy because they wanted to be chosen to run! The presentation could be a little shorter, but it was tolerable because of the entertaining antics of the dogs. Afterward, you are invited to see Jeff’s trophy room which is essentially a barn house. Jeff King himself is there to share his stories and experiences from the Iditarod and dog mushing. He is very entertaining, funny, and interesting. Of course, there is an opportunity to purchase souvenirs, including the puppy photo they took of you earlier, and get Jeff’s autograph. Overall, a great experience and a wonderful stop if you're in Denali!
Near the park headquarters, there are sled dog demonstrations given during the summer. You can see the dog kennels and watch them pull a sled for a short distance. They make some serious runs during the winter. Eventually, the park road becomes impassable, and sled dogs provide the main means of transport in this park.
Ahh... that's a happy dog. If I were the dog I'll be happy too ;-) All the rangers working in kennels were female; it just happened so. The Travel Channel once aired an Alaska episode, including Denali National Park, and I saw the girl shown in photo on TV.
These dogs love to run. They got so excited when the crowd gathered waiting for the demo. The rangers had to lift their front legs above the ground when taking them out of their cabins, otherwise they would be uncontrollable. These sled dogs are treated the same as rangers and are considered National Park official.
Sled dog run is a tradition in Alaska. Every year the famous Iditarod race runs 1,100 miles across Alaska in cold winter. To see sled dog run in the summer, just visit Denali National Park and check out its sled dog demo.
Denali National Park follows the tradition and is the only National Park that uses sled dogs for winter park patrol. In the summer, they keep the dogs in shape by doing demo (wheels attached to sled). Check the demo schedule at Visitor Center (3 times a day in the summer) then take the free shuttle to the park kennels.
Denali Kennels have been part of the Park's history from the very beginning. Today, the kennels continue to be an integral part of the Park. New arrivals were born at the kennels from select sled dogs. Kennel staff then pick the puppies for proper position based on their physical attributes, enthusiasm to run, endurance, and temper. Note that Denali sled dogs are not of a pure breed, nor are they crosses of purebred dogs. They are mixed with one common name: Alaska husky. Visit Denali Kennel and mingle with these energetic dogs.
Experience the warmth of a husky homestead and learn about the sport of dog sled racing. Dog mushing was once a primary form of transportation in many areas of Alaska and remains important in some rural villages. Today, mushing is a very popular winter sport. Learn the daily routine of caring for champion dogs and get some pictures:)
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