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Tag Archives: apostle islands dog sled race

This past weekend was the 24th running of the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. It is a two day even with the first half of the race run on Saturday and the second half on Sunday. Attendance has become an almost annual event on our winter schedule. We meet friends at the race and then head out for a long lunch in Bayfield. This years race occurred after some bitterly cold weather and it appeared that everyone had gotten cabin fever. Saturday was the first warm day and the crowd at the race was much larger than recent years. The parking lot was almost full when we arrived a half hour before the start of the race.

We like to arrive early so we can wander around and look at the dog teams and equipment before the start of the race.

A Duluth TV crew was on hand to interview the racers. We were able to watch the interview on the evening news.

Shortly after we arrived the mushers started hooking up the dogs preparing for the start of the race.

No race can take place without a large number of volunteers. They are what makes the race go. Some of the larger dog teams take five or six volunteers to them to the starting line.

Some folks take the occasion to add a little color to the event.

While most folks were taking photos and videos with their phone there were a few serious photographers in the crowd.

At the start of the race I walked down the trail a ways to get away from the large crowd near the start line.

After photographing for a while disaster struck and the mirror locked up on my camera. I had to walk back to the car and get another camera so I took a few more photos from the parking lot.

There was a food truck near the start of the race.

There was a booth staffed by an Apostle Islands Ranger so I stopped by to ask about access to the ice caves. He indicated that the ice was good out on the lake but not so good around the ice caves. Maybe they will open and maybe they won’t.


I then walked over to the starting line and photographed from there for the remainder of the race. When a team comes up to the start line the musher hands off an anchor to one of the volunteers. The anchor is driven into the ground so the team can’t leave the start gate. As the start time nears the anchor is handed back to the musher so the team can leave.

While I was watching at the starting line my wife and our friends were about 50 yards down the course. Apparently there was a dog fight. The two lead dogs got into fight and headed into the crowd. One spectator was backed up against a tree. People immediately stepped in to separate the dogs but not before some blood was drawn. The musher ended up removing one of the dogs from the team. This is the first time we’ve seen anything like that at a race.

There was a bonfire going but since it wasn’t all that cold out it wasn’t as crowded as it has been during some races.

After all of the teams started the race we headed off to Bayfield for lunch. Generally after lunch we drive back and watch some of the teams finish the race but highway 13 wasn’t all that good so we drove over to Ashland and drove back on highway 2.



Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race

This past weekend we took another road trip. Our destination was the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races in Bayfield, Wisconsin with a little skiing in between. We arrived at the Echo Valley Gravel Pit well before the races were to start. The gravel pit is located 12 miles north of Bayfield on Highway 13. It offers a large flat area so the racers can get all of their gear ready for the race and also provides parking for the Volunteers and spectators. This was our first dog sled race and we didn’t know what to expect.


When we arrived most of the mushers were already encamped with their dogs and sleds on the ground. The first thing we noticed was the tremendous excitement in the air. Most of the dogs were barking and the din was really loud. There were other dog teams that were really calm. We walked around the venue admiring the beautiful animals on the various teams.

The races were scheduled to start at 10am so we headed for the starting line in time to get a good viewing location. The din really increased as the dogs were getting harnessed up. They knew what was coming and were really excited to be off and racing. Although the parking lot was full we didn’t notice all that many spectators around the starting line and we had no problem finding some good viewing sites for the start of the race.

Heading for the Starting Line

Volunteers at Work

One of the reason there were so few spectators was because there were a large number of volunteers working. We didn’t realize that it takes so many people to put on a dog race. It takes 5 or 6 people to bring a dog team to the starting point and even then there can be mass bedlam. The dogs are frantically jumping around and frequently get tangled up in the harness. Since they have two shutes at the starting gate there can be mass bedlam as the dogs get ready. The mushers have an anchor on the

Starting Shute

sled and that is attached to a wire cable at the back of the Shute so the dogs can’t take off before everything is ready. When they are given the go the anchor is handed to the musher and the team jumps from the starting gate to the cheers of the fans.

Halfway Home

On this particular day there were 4 different classes, 8-dog, 6-dog, Sportsman, and Family/Youth. We watched most of the racers start before leaving and driving down to a midway point on the race course to watch some of the teams out on the race course.

Sailboats waiting for Spring

We then headed back to Bayfield to see if we could watch the wind sled that transports people back and forth to Madeline Island. As it turned out the ice road had opened up so the wind sled was no longer running We took time out for a nice lunch and watched people driving out to Madeline Island and ice fishing on the lake. We also took a few photos of the sailboats that were stored along the harbor.

The Finish

After lunch we drove back out the to the race starting point which had become the race finishing point. What a difference. In the morning there was bedlam with the dogs ready to go and barking up a storm in the excitement. The weather was warm and the course was soft so the dogs really had to work hard. When finished the race there wasn’t a sound. Their tongues were hanging out and it looked like all they could think of was getting back to the truck for some food, water and rest.


This was a fun day and something we would love to do again. The race venue is great and you will have no problems getting a good viewpoint for photography. If you really want to get up close you can volunteer to help at the race. They are always looking for volunteers to help with the dogs.

Additional photos from the day can be seen on my website.