Nome, Alaska is a small town on the western coast of Alaska. Many may remember Nome as the city that was featured in the cartoon movie, “Balto”. It is located on the Seward Peninsula and sits right on the coast of the Bering Sea. People first became interested in Nome in the early 1900’s due to the gold rush. Today it is a small town with a population of 3500. However, when gold was first discovered in Nome the population ballooned to 28,000. Today it is vital to Northwest Alaska and is known for the Iditarod Race finishing there. It is home to 3 tribes of Eskimo’s and has evidence of being inhabited as far back as 10,000 years. You can see the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, in the winter. You can cross country ski, eat great King Crab, catch a sled dog ride or enjoy the excitement of the Iron Dog Race. Nome may be small but she packs a punch with all her diversity and fun things to do.
The Gold Rush
It was the gold rush of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that put Nome on the map. The gold in Nome was found primarily on the beach and humorously many who were clamoring for the gold walked right over it to get to the rivers and creeks where it was thought the gold would be. People in Alaska have heard of “The Lucky Swedes” who were the three men who reportedly first discovered gold in Nome. This is not quite accurate as the three gentlemen did not actually discover gold. They had been forced into harbor during a bad storm. While waiting for the winds to subside they panned the local creeks. They found some gold but not enough to call it a discovery. After this small show of gold they soon had 43 claims in the region and had claims by power of attorney for many others. This led to a huge dispute over claims that ultimately got blamed on “The Lucky Swedes”. One day a random miner panned the beach sand and discovered gold. Now, in earnest the Nome gold rush was on!!
Balto and the Iditarod Sled Dog Race
Balto is a movie based on a true story that takes place in 1925. Diphtheria, a deadly disease had broken out. It is the story of how sled dogs, in particular Balto, saved the town by getting the much needed medicine to isolated Nome in the dead of winter. This incredible feat has been the inspiration of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. This race has its beginning in Anchorage and runs 24 hours a day till the teams arrive in Nome, over 1100 miles. There are lots of celebrations and TV coverage in Nome. In Alaska, this race is watched and followed closely. The state of the teams and who’s in the lead will be front page news during the race. People travel from all over to Nome, Alaska to see who comes in first.
The Iron Dog Race
The Iron Dog Race has also been associated with Nome as it is the halfway point in the race. Snow mobiles are used in this race instead of the sled dogs. Thus the name, “Iron Dog”. The race begins in Wasilla and runs along the Iditarod Trail to Nome and back to Fairbanks. This course is over 2000 miles of the roughest yet most beautiful surroundings that nature has to offer. Add to the rough conditions, freezing temperatures that many times get below zero and you have only part of the story of the Iron Dog Race. Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd, has left his own mark in Alaskan history by winning this race 4 times. Iron dogging or snow mobiling is popular in Alaska.
It is the most fun to visit Nome during the Iditarod Dog Sled Race or the Iron Dog Race. Since both of these events are history making there are lots of side activities to enjoy. Nome is not accessible by road. You have to fly in, come by sea in the summer or take a dog sled. In modern times, few come in by dog sled, except from the neighboring villages. Most arrive by air. If you want to visit in the summer, there are plenty of activities in that season as well. You can pan for gold, go bird watching, hiking, enjoy King Crab at one of the great restaurants and observe Native life. The long summer days are also fun to experience. Nome may be small in population but it is large in heart, history and fun!!
Author Unknown, http://www.visitnomealaska.com/nome-history-culture.html, Nome Convention and Visitors Bureau
Larry Gedney, http://www.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF7/729.html, Alaska Science Forum
Author Unknown, http://www.irondograce.org/about/iron-dog-history/, Iron Dog