I Did the Iditarod Trail
Wasilla wasn’t a very big town 35 years ago.
But nearby Anchorage is so landlocked by parks, military bases, and Cook
Inlet that many Alaskans who work there
have chosen to live here and commute to their jobs in Wasilla, Alaska.
Wasilla, where the real Iditarod Sled Dog Race starts, is Alaska’s fastest growing community.
(Photo, Martin Buser)
Wasilla was named after Chief Wasilla, an Athabascan Indian leader.
The town is on the old Carle Wagon Trail, an historic trail that linked Knik to the mines at Hatcher Pass.
the Alaska Railroad was built in 1917, the point where it crossed the
gold mine trail became “Wasilla.” The train depot, now used by the
local Chamber of Commerce, marks that spot.
in the region include the Dorothy Page Museum on Main Street in
Wasilla, the Iditarod Museum on the Knik Road, the Knik Museum &
Musher’s Hall of Fame (farther down the Knik Road), and the Museum of
Transportation, just north of Wasilla on the Parks Highway.
Down in the Valley
huge river valleys make up the Mat-Su Valley. The Matanuska River
starts at the Matanuska Glacier in the Chugach Mountains to the east. The
Glenn Highway runs alongside it. The Susitna River comes into Talkeetna from the mountains of the Alaska Range. The Parks Highway was built
in the valley beside it.
Anchored, Then Boated Over to Knik & Iditarod Trail
Old Knik is now pretty much abandoned. But in July, 1898, it was an important boom town.
was the outfitting center for Alaska’s gold miners. They anchored their
ships in the deeper waters of the nearby “anchorage” and took smaller
boats to Knik, where they headed up the Iditarod Trail to the goldfields of western Alaska.
The Knik Museum and Musher’s Hall of Fame was once the town’s pool hall.
It’s located 14 miles down the Knik Road from Wasilla.
Redington, a musher from Knik, came up with the idea for the Iditarod
Sled Dog Race. There’s a memorial garden dedicated to him.
Currently, there’s talk of building a bridge from Anchorage across Cook Inlet to Knik – one of the
well-known Alaskan “bridges to nowhere.”
More About The Iditarod
A number of Alaska towns consider themselves to be the beginning of the Iditarod Trail.
Knik was where miners entered the trail from Cook Inlet. Seward was where miners landed and came north from Resurrection
Bay over the old Iditarod Trail.
The original 1925 Iditarod Trail serum run started in Nenana.
The current dog sled race officially starts in Anchorage, then restarts in Wasilla or Willow and
ends in Nome, taking northern & southern routes every other year.
+ Click here for a map of the complete Iditarod Trail
+ Activities + Things to Get
+ Where to Stay + Where to Eat
RELATED MAPS AND FEATURES
+ Map of Parks Highway Campgrounds
In Wasilla, Don't Miss...
• Mat-Su Visitor Center at the Parks Hwy Jct.
• Dorothy Page Museum
• Museum of Transportation
• Iditarod Trail Museum
• Iditarod Kennels
More About the Mat-Su Valley
Although these are two distinct river valleys, made by two rivers that
don’t cross each other (the Matanuska and the Susitna), local people
treat the two valleys as if they were one, calling them “The Valley.”
You’ll also often hear this region referred to by its shortened
nickname, “Mat-Su.” An Alaskan form of government similar to a county
(but called a “borough” here) covers much of the Mat-Su area. There are
two easy to get to visitor centers. One is in downtown
Palmer. The other – the
Mat-Su Visitor Center – is just north of the intersection of the Parks and Glenn Highways.
WASILLA, KNIK, BIG LAKE, WILLOW AND HOUSTON are stretched along the
Parks Highway 43 to 98 miles north of Anchorage. Wasilla, Palmer and the Knik
area blend into each other in a sprawling new community.
Farther up the Parks Highway, the people thin out. There are lakes, creeks, dog kennels, recreational sites, bunnies,
and bunny boots (pictured below).
+ More about Bunny Boots in the Talkeetna Section
MAT-SU VALLEY (map)
Size: 22,683 square miles
Starts: 35 miles north of Anchorage
1.“Mat” stands for “Matanuska.”
2.“Su” stands for “Susitna.”
3. Known as “The Valley” to Alaskans.
4. Fast-growing bedroom community.
5. Includes Palmer, Wasilla, Big
Lake, Houston, Willow, and Talkeetna.
Wasilla Chamber of Commerce
The website of the Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce. Includes events
calendar, community profile, and business directory.
Museum of Alaska Transportation
The Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry has been 'giving a
future to Alaska's past since 1976.' Read about its different
collections, which run from vintage aircraft to stock from the Alaska