Working Dogs in Denali National Park

This weekend I had the chance to meet the sled dogs that live and work at Denali National Park. Besides being unbelievable cute, these dogs play an important role in daily life. The park kennel was founded in 1921 to help stop rampant poaching on park lands. Sled dogs were the fasts and best way to travel during the winter on the ice and snow covered land.

Today the dogs are still important. By law, motorized vehicles and equipment can not be used (such as snow machines) so dogs are still the best way to travel and carry freight during the winter. They bring supplies to ranger outposts and carry materials for special building projects. Dogs also continue to help patrol the land, logging as many as 3,000 miles each year.

In the summer, the park offers kennel tours and demonstrations to visitors, so the dogs get a vacation and lots of loving attention. During our visit to the kennel, the transition from summer to winter was about to get started. The dogs were beginning their training to get back in shape for winter work. To run sleds, the park must have at least eight inches of snow, but the dogs will begin training with short (10-15 mile) ATV runs so they are ready for longer winter routes (up to 30 miles a day).

During our visit, I got to meet the current group of puppies that will be the next generation of sled dogs, as well as the dogs that are running now. Cute is an understatement.


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