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About the
beargrease

Established in 1980, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is the premiere sled dog race series in North America. 

World-class mushers including Jamie NelsonJohn and Jason Baron have competed in the nearly 300 mile event – facing off against other seasoned competitors as well as the extremes of northern Minnesota weather and the deceivingly rugged terrain of the trail. The “Beargrease” is a qualifier for the famed Iditarod race in Alaska.

The organization hosts a Mid-Distance race, The Beargrease 120, which also travels through the rugged Sawtooth mountains of the North Shore of Minnesota.  A recreational race, The Beargrease 40, also begins and ends on race day. 

All check points and road crossings are easily accessible to the public and provide many opportunities for photographers, winter camping or simply quality time around a campfire with good people, hot chocolate and the thrill of seeing the amazing canine athletes in action.

Close to 400 volunteers from around the country come together each winter to assure the event happens. The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is a 501 ©3 non-profit organization, overseen by a Board of Directors elected by the general membership.

Coming to watch the Beargrease is Free; Donate Today to Help Keep it That Way!

“The mission of the John Beargrease Sled Dog marathon is to conduct the best long distance sled dog race in North America in a culturally sensitive manner, and to promote the sport of dog mushing.”

WE ARE LEADERS IN
ANIMAL WELFARE

Animal welfare has been the single most important aspect of this event from its inception. We believe that all dogs are entitled to adequate and balanced nutrition; all dogs deserve humane handling, respect, and care from their owners; and all dogs deserve adequate regular exercise.

The relationship between sled dogs and humans is one of the oldest bonds of its kind. The Beargrease is proud of its role in helping to enhance this bond by continuing to uphold the virtue that no dog will be allowed to run beyond its natural ability. The Beargrease is sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association (ISDVMA) and is run under its guidelines.

We continue to be a leader in animal welfare in the mushing community. If we are ever to make a decision regarding race safety, it will be in favor of the dogs.

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John Beargrease
John Beargrease driving a dogsled team

TheJohn Beargrease Story

John Beargrease was pivotal in the development of the entire north shore and the communities who have maintained their foothold there over the past century.

John Beargrease was born in Beaver Bay, Minnesota in 1858, the son of an Anishinabe Chief, Moquabimetem. The family lived in a traditional wigwam on the edge of the first settlement on Minnesota’s North Shore; Beaver Bay. They survived through their traditional native practices of hunting, fishing and trapping.

In John’s early years, a mere footpath existed as the main means of travel from Duluth to Thunder Bay, Ontario. The path was utilized first by the native Anishinabe and was adopted later by settling European fur traders and fishing families.

Despite the remoteness of the region, it offered abundant wildlife and great promise. By the time John Beargrease was in his twenties, the North Shore had become home to numerous small settlements of fishing families which had planted themselves in the many coves of Lake Superior’s rocky shoreline.

Lake Superior’s North Shore was then and is now, subject to severe temperature changes, heavy rainfall and violent storms and travel in the area was extremely difficult despite the influx of settlers. This lead to limited communication with the outside world at a time when most other parts of the country were receiving regular mail delivery.

John Beargrease and his brothers were avid hunters and trappers and made regular trips to the region along their well-established Lake Shore Trail trap line. Recognizing the opportunity, John and his brothers picked up the job of delivering the mail by simply tossing a mailbag or two into existing packs.

For almost twenty years, between 1879 and 1899, John Beargrease and his brothers delivered the mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais. With the limited equipment available and loads weighing as much as 700 lbs. The trip was made once a week…an incredible feat for one man to accomplish especially when you consider the constant range of altitude along the shore.

Through the seasons, the Beargrease brothers used a variety of methods to transport the mail including canoes, horses and large boats. John Beargrease himself was best known for his winter travels by dogsled. His sled looked more like a toboggan than today’s sleds and he ran with teams of only four dogs. His fastest trip on dogsled was 28 hours from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. Without the weight, and with today’s advances in technology, Beargrease mushers can accomplish the same trip in little better time, with teams of up to sixteen dogs.

John Beargrease was pivotal in the development of the entire North Shore and the communities who have maintained their foothold there over the past century. With his successful delivery, the population and economy stabilized and permanent towns made their mark on the landscape. Today we celebrate the vital role of John Beargrease in the early history of the North Shore of Lake Superior through the annual running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

1899 would be the last year John Beargrease delivered the mail. The Lake Shore Trail that he had traveled for twenty years became an actual road, one that could be traveled with horse and buggy. John ended his last trip to Grand Marais on April 26, 1899.

He made his home in both Beaver Bay and among his people in Grand Portage. He never forgot how much the people living on the North Shore depended upon the mail. One day in 1910, he went out in a storm to rescue another mail carrier whose boat was caught in the waves off Tamarack Point, near Grand Portage. He caught pneumonia after the ordeal and died soon after. His grave can be seen today at the Indian Cemetery in Beaver Bay.

What to expect when you come see the Beargrease Marathon

Watching the Beargrease is not for the faint of heart. Neither is it for dress shoes, fancy clothes, makeup, or showers (we’re only half joking). Watching the race or volunteering involves spending hours outside in the harshest weather that Northern Minnesota can offer.

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Important events for the Beargrease

Beargrease events timeline

Frequently Asked Questions

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Meet the Crew that Makes the Beargrease Happen

Meet the amazing people behind the people behind the dogs! This race would not happen without the tireless effort of our Board of Directors and Staff.

Board of Directors

Bent-Paddle-Brewing
Local Minnesota beer at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

Info here about Bent Paddle Brewing Co. and how they sponsor Beargrease and what it’s like to go have a beer at their brewery. Filler text here lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla cursus tristique aliquam.

More about Bent Paddle

trestle-inn
Enjoy local food at the unique and historic Trestle Inn

Info here about Trestle Inn and how they sponsor Beargrease and what it’s like to go have a beer at their brewery. Filler text here lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla cursus tristique aliquam.

More about Trestle Inn

Bent-Paddle-Brewing
Local Minnesota beer at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

Info here about Bent Paddle Brewing Co. and how they sponsor Beargrease and what it’s like to go have a beer at their brewery. Filler text here lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla cursus tristique aliquam.

More about Bent Paddle

trestle-inn
Enjoy local food at the unique and historic Trestle Inn

Info here about Trestle Inn and how they sponsor Beargrease and what it’s like to go have a beer at their brewery. Filler text here lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla cursus tristique aliquam.

More about Trestle Inn

Bent-Paddle-Brewing
Local Minnesota beer at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

Info here about Bent Paddle Brewing Co. and how they sponsor Beargrease and what it’s like to go have a beer at their brewery. Filler text here lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla cursus tristique aliquam.

More about Bent Paddle

trestle-inn
Enjoy local food at the unique and historic Trestle Inn

Info here about Trestle Inn and how they sponsor Beargrease and what it’s like to go have a beer at their brewery. Filler text here lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla cursus tristique aliquam.

More about Trestle Inn

Beargrease Staff

Bent-Paddle-Brewing
Local Minnesota beer at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

Info here about Bent Paddle Brewing Co. and how they sponsor Beargrease and what it’s like to go have a beer at their brewery. Filler text here lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla cursus tristique aliquam.

More about Bent Paddle

trestle-inn
Enjoy local food at the unique and historic Trestle Inn

Info here about Trestle Inn and how they sponsor Beargrease and what it’s like to go have a beer at their brewery. Filler text here lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla cursus tristique aliquam.

More about Trestle Inn

Bent-Paddle-Brewing
Local Minnesota beer at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

Info here about Bent Paddle Brewing Co. and how they sponsor Beargrease and what it’s like to go have a beer at their brewery. Filler text here lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla cursus tristique aliquam.

More about Bent Paddle

trestle-inn
Enjoy local food at the unique and historic Trestle Inn

Info here about Trestle Inn and how they sponsor Beargrease and what it’s like to go have a beer at their brewery. Filler text here lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla cursus tristique aliquam.

More about Trestle Inn

The “goodest” dogs
Need your help

What a sled dog looks forward to most after a long day of racing is a nice bed of straw! But guess what happened at last year’s race? Someone stole all our straw right before the race start! Thankfully, great fans like you helped us out during the final hour to provide this vital supply for our amazing dogs.

These dogs simply are the best – and we want to be able to continue treating them that way! Donations from fans like you make that possible. Would you find it in your heart to help us out? No amount is too small in sled dog world!

Support the Beargrease

Thankfully You Don’t Have to Wait For a Dogsled to Get Your Mail These Days

Stay up-to-date with the latest Beargrease news; winter isn’t the only time we have fun!
Find out how to be involved in the Beargrease year-around.