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Yukon, river, Canada and the United States


(yo͞o`kŏn), river, c.2,000 mi (3,220 km) long, rising in Atlin Lake, NW British Columbia, Canada, and receiving numerous headwater streams; one of the longest rivers of North America. It flows generally northwest, into Yukon past Dawson and across the Alaska border, to Fort Yukon, thence generally southwest through central Alaska until, in a wide swing north, it enters Norton Sound of the Bering Sea through a delta that is 60 mi (97 km) wide. Its chief tributaries are the Teslin, Pelly, White, Stewart, Porcupine, Tanana, and Koyukuk rivers. The river is incised in the Yukon Plateau; marshy land borders much of its upper course. The Yukon is navigable for river boats three months of the year to Whitehorse, c.1,775 mi (2,860 km) upstream.

The Yukon basin is one of the most sparsely populated and least developed regions of North America. Much of its history, exploration, and development centers on the river system. Its lower reaches were explored (1836–37, 1843) by Russians, and in 1843 Robert Campbell of the Hudson's Bay Company explored the upper course. During the Klondike gold rush (1897–98) the Yukon was a major route to the gold fields. Greater development of the basin occurred in the mid-1900s due to its strategic location, and several military installations were later built.

The Yukon River is a major salmon-spawning ground, and salmon fishing is an important seasonal activity. The Yukon is used to generate hydroelectricity, but it remains one of the greatest undeveloped hydroelectric resources in North America. On the river's banks are fur-trading posts, missions, native villages, and towns with modern airports serving vast areas.

Yukon, territory, Canada


territory (2001 pop. 28,674), 207,076 sq mi (536,327 sq km), NW Canada.

Geography and Climate

The triangle-shaped territory is bordered on the N by the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean, on the E by the Northwest Territories, on the S by British Columbia and Alaska, and on the W by Alaska. The highest point in Yukon is Mt. LoganLogan, Mount,
19,551 ft (5,959 m) high, in Kluane National Park, extreme SW Yukon, Canada, just E of Alaska; highest mountain in Canada and second highest in North America. One of the St. Elias Mts.
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, 19,551 ft (5,959 m) high, in the St. Elias Mts. in the southwest. Although most of Yukon is a watershed for the Yukon River and its tributaries, the northern and southeastern regions drain east into the Mackenzie River system.

Immediately south of the desolate arctic coast the country is uninhabited and generally unknown. The other parts of the territory have great natural beauty, with snow-fed lakes backed by perpetually white-capped mountains and forests and streams abounding with wildlife. Kluane National Park (8,499 sq mi/22,013 sq km; est. 1972) in SW Yukon includes Mt. Logan and extensive ice fields; it abuts parks in British Columbia and Alaska. Winters are long and cold, with low humidity. During the short summers the longer day and surprisingly warm sun bring a profusion of wildflowers and enable the hardier grains and vegetables to mature.

The few settlements are situated on the riverbanks. The capital and largest town is WhitehorseWhitehorse,
city (1991 pop. 17,925), S Yukon, Canada, on the Yukon River. Since 1952 it has been the territorial capital. Whitehorse is on the Alaska Highway and was the terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Railway from Skagway, Alaska, which suspended service in 1982.
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, where the vast majority of the population lives. Next in importance is DawsonDawson
or Dawson City,
city (1991 pop. 972), W Yukon, Canada, at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike rivers. It is the trade center of the Klondike mining region and a tourist center.
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Yukon's leading industry by far is mining; lead, zinc, silver, gold, and copper are the principal minerals. Tourism is the second most important industry; the area's colorful history and beautiful scenery draw visitors. Manufacturing has increased in importance, with such products as furniture, clothing, and handicrafts. There are hydroelectric facilities at Whitehorse, Aishihik, and Mayo. Trapping, the oldest industry, has declined in recent decades. Fishing is relatively unimportant.

Transportation facilities are limited. For many years the Yukon River system was the main artery. The White Pass and Yukon Railway, between Whitehorse and Skagway, Alaska, built during the Klondike gold rush of the 1890s, now handles only excursion traffic. The Alaska Highway and other all-weather roads have been built since World War II. Air transportation now plays a vital role, and there is an international airport at Whitehorse.

History and Government

The territory's history began with the explorations in the 1840s of Robert Campbell and John Bell, fur traders for the Hudson's Bay Company. Several trading posts were built on the Yukon River, and before long prospectors began to search for treasure. The Canadian government acquired the territory from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1870 and administered it as part of the Northwest Territories. After the famous gold strikes in the Klondike River region in the 1890s, thousands of fortune hunters arrived in search of gold. This colorful period was recorded in the writings of Robert Service and Jack London.

To meet the need for local government created by the influx of prospectors, Yukon was made a separate district (1895) and then a separate territory (1898) with Dawson as capital. Whitehorse became the capital in 1952. Native land claims and the desire for provincial status are two issues that have dominated territorial politics in recent years. The land claim by the Yukon, a tribe of about 7,000, was approved by the federal government in 1991. In 2003, a revised Yukon Act increased the territorial government's powers, giving it control over public land and natural resources.

The government consists of a federally appointed commissioner, an elected legislative assembly of 18 members, and a 5-member cabinet appointed by the majority party of the assembly. Dennis Fentie led the conservative Yukon party to victory in the 2002 assembly elections, ousting the governing Liberal party; Fentie's government retained power after the 2006 elections. In 2011 Fentie was replaced as Yukon party leader and as premier by Darrell Pasloski, and the party won a third term in offce later in the year. The territory sends one senator and one representative to the national parliament.


See K. J. Rea, The Political Economy of the Canadian North (1968); E. A. McCourt, The Yukon and Northwest Territories (1969); J. R. Lotz, Northern Realities: The Future of Northern Development in Canada (1970); M. Webb, The Last Frontier (1985); T. Stone, Miners' Justice: Migration, Law and Order on the Alaska-Yukon Frontier, 1873–1902 (1988); K. S. Coates and W. R. Morrison, A History of the Yukon (1988).



a river in Canada and the United States (Alaska). The Yukon is 3,700 km long and drains an area of 855,000 sq km. Its sources are in the mountains bordering the Yukon Plateau in the southeast. The principal source is the Lewes River, which originates in the Cordilleras. The Yukon empties into Norton Sound of the Bering Sea, forming a delta. Its principal tributaries are the Tanana (on the left) and the Pelly, Porcupine, and Koyukuk (on the right).

The Yukon flows in a deep mountain valley, sometimes through canyons, until its confluence with the Pelly. More than one-half of its entire course flows across plains, where its valley reaches 30 km in width. The river is fed primarily by snow. High water occurs in May and June. The water level in the lower course rises 15–20 m above the low stage level. Ocean tides penetrate the river 160 km upstream. The average discharge at the city of Eagle is 2,500 cu m per sec, and at the mouth, 6,500 cu m per sec.

The river has considerable hydroelectric power potential (3 gigawatts in the Canadian part), which is little used. It is navigable from May to September for a distance of 3,200 km, from the Whitehorse Rapids to the mouth. There are major landings at Koyukuk and Tanana in Alaska and at Whitehorse and Dawson in Canada.


northwestern Canadian territory touching on the Arctic Ocean. [Geography: Misc.]


the. a territory of NW Canada, on the Beaufort Sea, between the Northwest Territories and Alaska: arctic and mountainous, reaching 5959 m (19 550 ft.) at Mount Logan, Canada's highest peak; mineral resources. Capital: Whitehorse. Pop.: 31 209 (2004 est.). Area: 536 327 sq. km (207 076 sq. miles)