The Yukon River is one of the longest rivers in North America, with an estimated length of 1,980 miles. Starting in the Canadian province of British Columbia, the river flows through the Yukon Territory, runs through the US state of Alaska, and ultimately discharges into the Bering Sea. The Yukon River’s main headwaters flow from Atlin Lake, which flows into Tagish Lake, near the border between British Columbia and Yukon Territory. The left tributaries of the Yukon River are the White River and Tanana River, while its right-bank tributaries include the Big Salmon River, Teslin River, Stewart River, Pelly River, Klondike River, and Koyukuk River. Its headwater tributaries cover a drainage basin area of about 328,000 sq mi, which is larger than the Canadian province of Alberta or the US state of Texas. Access points to the Yukon River include the city of Whitehorse in Yukon Territory, Lake Atlin, and Lake Tagish.
A Trip From Lake Tagish to Eagle, Alaska
Starting at Lake Tagish, it is possible to travel the Yukon River to the city of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. At Whitehorse, the Yukon River is relatively large and has considerable boat traffic. The river flows past Whitehorse and its suburban areas, is joined by the Takhini River, and then reaches Lake Laberge. This section of the river is considered one of the most unsafe, as canoes can easily capsize. The Teslin River joins the Yukon River about 15 miles past Lake Laberge, and the confluence between the Yukon River and Big Salmon River is located 20 miles further downstream. The river then heads towards the village of Carmacks, near the Five Finger Rapids. The river is also joined by the White River and Stewart River before reaching Dawson City, Yukon. Additionally, the confluence of the Forty Mile River is located further downstream. The Yukon River finally reaches the city of Eagle, Alaska, where road access is available.
Eagle, Alaska to Emmonak, Alaska
The section of the Yukon River between the city of Eagle and the census-designated place (CDP) of Circle is wide, with channels and islands. After joining the Charley River, the Yukon River flows to Circle, and then to the Porcupine River, followed by the confluence with the Chandalar River. The river's convergence with the Tanana River occurs at the town of Tanana, and its confluence with the Toztina River is located further downstream. The Yukon River then flows to the village of Galena, before continuing its westward course. The last section of the trip down the Yukon River is from the city of Mountain Village to the city of Emmonak.
The land surrounding the headwaters of the Yukon River was inhabited by indigenous populations until the arrival of European colonists in the 19th century, which included fur traders and explorers from the Russian Empire. The subsequent discovery of gold in the Klondike resulted in increased settlement of the area. The river’s waters once flowed along the rocky Whitehorse Rapids, which were challenging for gold mining and exploration. A short railway was constructed from Skagway, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon to help prospectors move throughout the region. Today, the rapids are no longer visible due to the damming of the river for hydroelectric power generation. However, the Yukon River's hydroelectric potential remains largely untapped. The primary power plants along the Yukon River are located near Whitehorse and Mayo.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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