THE CANADIAN CHALLENGE TODAY
The Canadian Challenge sled dog race for the Cameco Cup is a 12 dog continuous mid distance race held in Saskatchewan. The race follows a route similar to that of the old sled dog trail used for years by trappers, the North West Mounted Police and the First Nations community to travel between Prince Albert and La Ronge. The total distance of the race is approx. 600 kilometers.
Over the years, the Canadian Challenge has obtained the recognition of being a world class-sporting event and is the nation's longest sled dog, which starts, runs and finishes in Canada. The race has attracted teams from across Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany, Serbia and Belgium. An added highlight is the 8 dog race from Prince Albert to La Ronge. This race runs in conjunction with the 12 dog sled race on it's way up to La Ronge'.
In 2007 the Junior Canadian Challenge ran for the first time. The Canadian Challenge is sponsored by the Gateway North Sled Dog Race Association, which is a non-profit organization formed in 1994 to promote traditional sled dog racing in Saskatchewan.
HISTORY OF THE FREIGHT TRAILS
The race route parallels the earliest known transportation corridor located in the central part of Saskatchewan. This early corridor was known as the Freight Trails and was a vital link between the northern and southern communities in the province.
The development of several freight haul trails was facilitated with the discovery of resources in north central Saskatchewan in the late 1800s destined for southern markets. These trails ran predominately from Prince Albert to Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park, Montreal Lake, Candle Lake and than on to La Ronge. In the winter sleighs and to a lesser extent, wagons in the summer, carried manufactured goods northward while fish and furs travelled south. In addition, the Freight Trails were utilized to provided provisions to logging camps.
"Freighters travelled in steady numbers - sometimes caravans (or 'swings') from Prince Albert through the Prince Albert National Park region to Montreal Lake, resting at a series of overnight stopping places established at roughly 20 mile intervals along the way."
One of the largest of these stopping places was "the Forks," located on Mud Creek at the north end of Shady Lake where the Montreal Lake trail was joined by a western lateral to Big River.
"In 1914" a new Prince Albert -Montreal Lake freight trail was located east of the third meridian. This new road crippled the Forks, taking away an estimated 90% of its freighting business during its first winter of operation." Bill Waiser, SASKATCHEWAN'S PLAYGROUND: A HISTORY OF PRINCE ALBERT NATIONAL PARK, Fifth House Publishers, Saskatoon, 1989
As all-weather roads and paved highways were built, the Freight Trails eventually became less important. These new roads paralleled the old Freight Trails or in some case, were built directly on top of them. One of the Freight Trails ran through the area, which was to become Prince Albert National Park. Today 27 kilometers of the Freight Trail is maintained by Parks Canada as a hiking, cycling and cross-country ski trail.