In Denali National Park and Preserve, sled dogs carry Alaskan heritage

  • Denali is the only national park with a sled dog den.
  • Visitors can meet the dogs, but they are not there for entertainment.
  • Working dogs are dogs with important duties in the park.

Denali National Park and Preserve had sled dogs long before visitors arrived.

“We’ve had dogs in the park almost continuously for the last 100 years,” said David Tomeo, manager of the Denali kennels, noting that they are the only sled dog kennels in the entire federal government.

According to Tomeo, the first park employee bought the first sled dogs in 1922 to mark the park boundary, build patrol cabins and tell gold miners they could no longer harvest sheep and caribou from the park to feed their crews.

A century later, Denali’s sled dogs continue to do important work in the Alaskan wilderness, but they’re also a popular visitor attraction.

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What breed are Denali sled dogs?

Denali’s sled dogs are Alaskan huskies.

“It’s a mixed breed. It’s not a purebred or registered with any kennel,” Tomeo said, noting that their genetic diversity stems from the gold rush era when all kinds of dogs were brought to Alaska. “Some people might call them blunt, but because we put so much intent into our breeding, they’re bred so carefully for health and genetics that they’re bred more carefully than purebred dogs.”

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