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A Guide to the Yukon River

The Basics

Victoria Rock, along the Yukon River downstream from Fort Selkirk
  • one of 3 rivers that roughly tie as the 2nd longest river in North America - 2,300 miles (the Mississippi and Missouri are also 2,300 miles, the Mackenzie River is 2,600). The length is often stated as 1,980 miles, but that is much out-of-date, and defines the Yukon River as starting at Hootalinqua, where the Pelly River joins what used to be called the Lewes River - for more information about that issue, see this article.
  • a federal hydrologist, Rick Janowitz, determined in 1999 that the source of the Yukon River is a stream fed by the Llewellyn Glacier at the south end of Atlin Lake.
  • total drainage area - 840,000 square kilometers (327,600 square miles). Of that, 323,800 square kilometers (126,300 square miles) is in Canada. As a comparison, the total area is more than 25% larger than Texas or Alberta.
  • discharges 195 cubic kilometres of water per year.
  • average flow is west-northwest, with the headwaters in the Coastal Mountains at roughly 60° N., 134° W., and the mouth at Norton Sound, 63°N., 165°W.
  • there are only 4 bridges across the Yukon River - at the foot of Marsh Lake, in downtown Whitehorse, at Carmacks and on the Dalton Highway north of Livengood.
  • historically, the two major hazards to navigation were Miles Canyon (now tamed by a dam) and Five Finger Rapids.
Yukon River

The Details

The Lewes River
Darrell Hookey clears up the confusion about what the real name of the river that passes by Whitehorse is.

A large colour map of the entire river.

Mileages on the Upper Yukon River
Mileages of about 70 locations from Dawson and Whitehorse, from the steamboat log book of Henry Breaden.

Our Time Machine is a Canoe
The story of Murray and Steven Lundberg's 407-mile canoe trip down the Yukon River, exploring the historic sites between Lake Laberge and Dawson City in August 1997.

The Thirty Mile River
Details on this stretch of the river, from the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

Yukon-Alaska Sternwheelers
A listing of over 360 of the boats which operated on the rivers of the Yukon and Alaska.

The Yukon River Diversions: An Environmental Historical Ghost Story
The Taiya Project was envisioned to reverse the flow of the Yukon River with a dam at Whitehorse and tunnels through the mountains to the coast.

The Taiya Project
A 46-page article by Claus-M. Naske, in pdf format.

This 8-minute documentary by Daniel Janke tells the story of the Yukon River as running from the future, into the past, with archival and contemporary footage.

Yukon-Charley Rivers Preserve
The National Park Service describes the preserve, which protects 115 miles of the Yukon River and the entire Charley River basin.

Yukon River Channel Charts
You can order this book, which consists of a series of 64 very detailed maps, with lots of commentary about life along the river.

Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council
The YRITWC is an is an international indigenous peoples' organization dedicated to cleaning up and protecting the Yukon River watershed.

Yukon River, Whitehorse to Dawson City
Flip Stoker has posted a log of some of the most interesting points along the river.

Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee
A public advisory body whose main concern is the conservation of Yukon River salmon stocks.

Yukon River Watershed
This USGS map shows the entire Yukon River basin.

Mercury in the Yukon River
Mercury levels in the Yukon River basin are 3 to 32 times higher than eight other major rivers in the northern hemisphere.

'Corporate America' in the North: the Yukon Queen II
The negative effects of tourism on some people who live along the Yukon River.