Dogs on PORTAGE in Spring before Ice,
Dog sleds were a common way of travelling to Red Lake in winter. Prospectors would arrive in Hudson by train. Some prospectors thought ahead and brought their own dogs with them, while others bought dogs in Hudson. While some prospectors were experienced dog sled drivers or could afford to hire drivers, many prospectors bought the dogs and learned as they went. There were so many prospectors travelling to and from Red Lake that the trail was easy to follow.
The first dog sled teams were often huskies, but as these dogs sold, people started buying any large dog that could pull the dog sled. Dog sled teams often varied in number, with some teams only having 1-2 dogs, while others had 4-6 dogs. Occasionally sled teams even had more than 6 dogs.
The average trip to Red Lake would take 6 days and 5 nights. However, the trip could take anywhere from 5 – 14 days depending on the weather, weight of the sled and experience of the driver, among other factors. Some people could make the trip without a load in 5 days as their speed was faster than the teams with a full load. Sled dogs were expensive and in high demand. At one point during the gold rush, a good sled dog could cost up to $200.
Most accounts agree that the dogs were treated relatively
well. If a dog was overly aggressive, and the owner/driver
could not handle it, the dog might be left on the trail to fend for itself. These dogs would often come into the camps of other people on the trail if they were hungry.
All the dogs worked hard and consumed a lot of food. The
dogs were fed a mixture of water, cornmeal and lard. Lard
was to replace all the calories that the dogs were using.
Many drivers would also carry frozen fish, as people thought fish contained something good for the dogs to eat.
In 1926, the dog teams on the trails to Red Lake were so plentiful that pilots could often look below and use them as a guide. The sled teams not only carried in supplies but also hauled the region’s mail.
Dog team in heavy snow, 1926
Mixed Breed Dog Team, 1920s
Police Officers and dogs, 1926