Racing Alaska’s Historic Iditarod Trail
Reading Comprehension Activity

Students will read a passage about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. They will learn about the history of the trail and the breeds of dogs that run the race. Students will then answer questions about the facts and vocabulary.

Click for the passage & questions on one printable PDF.


Every March, the air fills with the yips and yowls of sled dogs. They are excited to begin the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The dogs and their mushers, or sled drivers, race 1,000 miles from Anchorage, Alaska to Nome, Alaska. They face countless dangers during their long, rough journey. The Iditarod is a true race against the powerful forces of nature.

The race follows the Iditarod National Historic Trail. This trail was an important supply route during the late 19th and early 20th century. During the harsh winters, sled dogs would help deliver provisions to towns along the trail. They would deliver food, mail, medicine, and tools to mine gold. It is believed that the word “Iditarod” comes from a similar Native Alaskan word that means “distant place.”

Racers encounter many difficulties on the trail. Gale-force winds and sub-zero temperatures threaten the dogs and their mushers. Gale-force winds are winds than can reach over 50 miles per hour. The dogs run through dense forests and over rocky mountain passes. They also run across frozen ground called arctic tundra.

There are over 20 checkpoints on the Iditarod race route. Sled dogs and their mushers are able to rest at these stops. They are also able to pick up supplies like food and extra dog booties. Race dogs wear special booties to protect their paws from the snow and arctic tundra.

Several breeds of sled dogs run in the Iditarod. Some of the dogs that race are pure-breed dogs like the Alaskan Malamute, the Canadian Eskimo Dog, and the Siberian Husky. Alaskan Malamutes and Canadian Eskimo Dogs were popular breeds during the late 19th century. They are powerful dogs that can pull heavy loads. The Siberian Husky was a popular sled dog during the early 20th century due to its speed. Today, the most common type of sled dog is the mixed-breed Alaskan husky. They are prized for their mixture of strength and speed. Alaskan huskies also enjoy running with other sled dog team members.

In 1985, Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the Iditarod. She and her sled dog team completed the race in a little over 18 days. The fastest race time ever recorded was in March 2017. Mitch Seavey and his sled dog team finished the race in eight days, three hours, 40 minutes, and 13 seconds.

Hundreds of volunteers help make the race a success each year. These volunteers help care for the sled dogs. They help deliver food and supplies to the race checkpoints. They also support the dog teams by cheering them on through the long race.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race celebrates sled dog culture. It also honors the importance of the Iditarod Trail in the history of Alaska.

Comprehension Questions

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