The Yukon River, located in northwestern Canada and central Alaska, drains an area of more than 330,000 square miles, making it the fourth largest drainage basin in North America. Approximately 126,000 people live in this basin and 10 percent of these people maintain a subsistence lifestyle, depending on the basin's fish and game resources. Twenty ecoregions compose the Yukon River Basin, which indicates the large diversity of natural features of the watershed, such as climate, soils, permafrost, and geology.
Although the annual mean discharge of the Yukon River near its mouth is more than 200,000 cubic feet per second, most of the flow occurs in the summer months from snowmelt, rainfall, and glacial melt. Eight major rivers flow into the Yukon River. Two of these rivers, the Tanana River and the White River, are glacier-fed rivers and together account for 29 percent of the total water flow of the Yukon. Two others, the Porcupine River and the Koyukuk River, are underlain by continuous permafrost and drain larger areas than the Tanana and the White, but together contribute only 22 percent of the total water flow in the Yukon.
At its mouth, the Yukon River transports about 60 million tons of suspended sediment annually into the Bering Sea. However, an estimated 20 million tons annually is deposited on flood plains and in braided reaches of the river. The waters of the main stem of the Yukon River and its tributaries are predominantly calcium magnesium bicarbonate waters with specific conductances generally less than 400 microsiemens per centimeter. Water quality of the Yukon River Basin varies temporally between summer and winter. Water quality also varies spatially among ecoregions