Sled dogs carry on Alaskan legacy at Denali National Park and Preserve

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  • Denali is the only national park with a kennel of sled dogs.
  • Visitors can meet the dogs, but they’re not there for entertainment.
  • The working dogs are canine rangers with important duties in the park.

Long before there were any visitors at Denali National Park and Preserve, there were sled dogs.

“We have had dogs almost continuously for the past 100 years here at the park,” Denali kennels manager David Tomeo said, noting theirs is the only sled dog kennel in the entire federal government.

The park’s very first employee purchased the first sled dogs in 1922 to help mark the park boundary, build patrol cabins, and go out to tell gold miners they could no longer harvest sheep and caribou from the park to feed their crews, according to Tomeo.

A century later, Denali’s sled dogs continue to carry out important jobs in the Alaska wilderness, but they’ve also become a beloved attraction for visitors.

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What breed are Denali sled dogs?

Denali’s sled dogs are Alaskan huskies.

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

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