fort yukon

Photo above: Athabascan beadworker Lilly Pitka of Fort Yukon, Alaska made these dog blankets in 1926. Dogs would be decorated with fancy blankets like this during special times of year, when families would come in from traplines in wilderness areas of the state to gather together in celebration.

ALL ABOUT THE DOGS – Dog sledding, or dog mushing, has a long tradition in Alaska. It was used by early residents as a means of transportation. Today, rural residents still rely on dog teams to hunt and travel in remote areas, as do hobbyists who enjoy exploring the backcountry with their highly-trained athletes.  

Alaska also hosts a variety of big-name races. Thousands of fans follow along as mushers spend days competing in long distance wilderness events like the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. There are also sprint mushing races that are run through the streets of the state’s largest cities.

In the earliest days of tourism in Alaska, visitors found depictions of men and their dogs to be extremely compelling. They sought to bring home reminders of these people and their trusted companions of the trail. Many of these items were created by Alaska Native artists as souvenirs.

Luke Saganna carved this hunter and dog team (below) sometime around 1984 in Barrow. It is carved from caribou antler and has sinew tow lines and harnesses.

The museum’s history & ethnology collection features thousands of items that depict the Native cultures of Alaska. Many of them feature dog-related carvings or depictions. Jotham Seppilu is a Yupik artist from Savoonga, St. Lawrence Island. He carved this piece from walrus ivory.

This year in Alaska, the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race had to move its restart location from Willow, near Anchorage, to Fairbanks in the Interior due to a lack of snowfall. That’s more than 500 miles away from the ceremonial start location in the state’s largest city. And it means an extra day for mushers to scramble to get ready for the race. Fairbanks officials expect hundreds, if not thousands, of race-related visitors for the event.

Some of them might be in search of something to commemorate the experience, such as souvenirs or artwork like this piece of mineralized walrus ivory carved by Greg Stradiotto in 1984.

Even though this has been a relatively mild winter temperature-wise, many mushers and visitors will be sporting head gear like this marten fur “trapper-style” hat used extensively in Alaska. The flaps can be worn down or up, depending on the weather.

This depiction of a dog team and driver was commercially produced and marketed to tourists.

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Step back in time with #mypubliclandsroadtrip to the days of Alaska’s Gold Rush.

In 1899, the Fortymile region and upper Yukon valley were awash with gold miners and settlers lured in by the Klondike Gold Rush. Reports of lawlessness among the newcomers eventually reached Washington D.C. through the slow communications available at the time. The Army’s response – the establishment of Fort Egbert on the Yukon River a few miles from Canada – was to bring profound changes to the region and reshape Alaska’s ties to the rest of the nation.  The establishment of Fort Egbert brought law and communications to the Fortymile region.

With its soldiers long gone, telegraph link to the nation replaced by high-speed Internet, Fort Egbert today is a peaceful place for a stroll through Alaska’s past. The ruins of the fort hospital are overgrown with forest, and the former parade ground now serves as a strawberry patch and grass airstrip. Yet much of the fort’s fascinating history remains preserved in the five buildings that have survived more than a century of Interior Alaska’s harsh winters.  Explore the quartermaster storehouse, used to store a six-month food supply for the fort, the mule barn, that once housed 53 animals and was used until 1911, the granary was used to store precious grains shipped to Eagle on steamboats, the water wagon shed, and the noncommissioned officers’ quarters which provided living quarters for the quartermaster and hospital steward. 

You can explore the area on your own or take advantage of the Eagle Historical Society and Museums’ daily walking tour of the city, museum, and fort. And if you’re looking for a place to stay while you explore the fort, visit BLM’s 18-site Eagle Campground is a short walk from town and fort.  Explore #yourlands!