Flowing through the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge
|Name origin: Koyukon people|
|Cities||Evansville, Bettles, Allakaket, Hughes, Huslia|
|Source||confluence of North and Middle forks|
|- location||Brooks Range|
|- elevation||715 ft (218 m) |
|- elevation||115 ft (35 m)|
|Length||425 mi (684 km) |
|Basin||32,000 sq mi (82,880 km2) |
|- average||14,250 cu ft/s (404 m3/s) |
|- max||330,000 cu ft/s (9,345 m3/s)|
|- min||280 cu ft/s (8 m3/s)|
The Koyukuk River[pronunciation?] (Ooghekuhno’[pronunciation?] in Koyukon) is a 425-mile (684 km) tributary of the Yukon River, in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is the last major tributary entering the Yukon before the larger river empties into the Bering Sea.
Rising at the confluence of the North Fork Koyukuk River with the Middle Fork Koyukuk River, it flows generally southwest to meet the larger river at Koyukuk. The river, with headwaters above the Arctic Circle in the Endicott Mountains of the Brooks Range, drains an area north of the Yukon River that includes part of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, as well as Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge and Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge.
The main stem of the river flows by the communities of Evansville, Bettles, Alatna, Allakaket, Hughes, and Huslia before reaching Koyukuk. Its headwaters tributaries include the Koyukuk's south, middle, and north forks, the Alatna River, and the John River. Major tributaries further downstream include the Kanuti, Batzu, Hogatza, Huslia, Dulbi, Kateel, and Gisasa rivers. Of these, the Alatna, John, and North Fork are National Wild and Scenic Rivers, as is the Tinayguk River, a tributary of the North Fork.
Koyukuk was derived from the Central Yup’ik phrase kuik-yuk, meaning a river. The Koyukuk River was given this generic C. Yup’ik name by explorer Petr Vasilii Malakhov, because he did not know the local Koyukon name for it (i.e., Ooghekuhno).   The Western Union Telegraph Expedition used the spelling Coyukuk before the United States Board on Geographic Names settled on Koyukuk.
The Russian Petr Vasilii Malakhov reached the river at its confluence with the Yukon in 1838. Lieutenant Henry Allen and Private Fred Fickett of the United States Army ascended and explored the river in 1885. The discovery of gold deposits on the Middle Fork in 1893 led to a gold rush in 1898 with the establishment of trading posts and mining camps, including Bettles, on the upper river. In 1929, Robert "Bob" Marshall explored the North Fork of the Koyukuk River and gave the name Gates of the Arctic to the high Brooks Range along the river.
In 1980 the United States Congress designated 100 mi (164 km) of the North Fork of the Koyukuk River in the Brooks Range as the Koyukuk Wild and Scenic River.
In 1994 floods on the river swept away three villages, forcing the wholesale relocation of the population.
Flora and fauna
Vegetation along the Koyukuk River, sparse along the upper reaches, consists of tundra plants such as dwarf willows and other shrubs, sedges, and lichens. Further downstream at lower elevations, taiga and boreal forest plants are common except in the Koyukuk Flats near the mouth, where sedges and other herbaceous plants dominate the poorly drained muskeg. Trees found in more well-drained areas along the river include mountain alder, trembling aspen, white, and black spruce.
Fish species frequenting the lower Koyukuk include Arctic lamprey and sockeye salmon. The sockeye and other salmon species, including Chinook and chum, also thrive along the upper reaches and tributaries.
Caribou migrate across the upper part of the Koyukuk watershed. Other major vertebrates in the region include bald eagles, brown and black bears, mink, beaver, marten, and river otter. Beluga whales sometimes visit the lower Koyukuk.
Moose herds, which thrive in parts of the watershed, especially in riparian zones downstream of Hughes, attract local and non-local hunters, bears, and wolves. A consortium of moose hunters and state wildlife officials work to keep the moose population at sustainable levels.
Through 2005, no one had published a study of invertebrates of the Koyukuk or its larger tributaries. General information included in a study related to pipeline construction through the watershed suggested the presence of a variety of true flies, midges, black flies, mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies.
- Derived by entering source coordinates in Google Earth.
- "Koyukuk River". Geographic Names Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1981-03-31. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
- Orth, Donald J.; United States Geological Survey (1971) . Dictionary of Alaska Place Names: Geological Survey Professional Paper 567 (PDF). University of Alaska Fairbanks. United States Government Printing Office. p. 544. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
- "Boundary Descriptions and Names of Regions, Subregions, Accounting Units and Cataloging Units". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
- "USGS Gage #15564900 on the Koyukuk River at Hughes, Alaska". National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1960–1982. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
- Benke and Cushing, p. 790
- Alaska Atlas & Gazetteer (7th ed.). Yarmouth, Maine: DeLorme. 2010. pp. 134, 136. ISBN 978-0-89933-289-5.
- Benke and Cushing, pp. 789–90
- Benke and Cushing, p. 791
- Zagoskin, Lavrenty A., and Henry N. Michael (ed.) (1967). Lieutenant Zagoskin’s Travels in Russian America, 1842-1844: The First Ethnographic and Geographic Investigations in the Yukon and Kuskokwim Valleys of Alaska. University of Toronto Press., at page 146 (“Malakhov … did not know the native name for this, and so he called it simply Kuyukuk, the word for ‘river’ in the coastal speech of the Chnagmyut.”). The “Chnagmyut” lived between St. Michael and Unalakleet. Id. at page 104 (map).
- Bright, William. Native American Placenames of the United States. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 238. ISBN 0-8061-3576-X.
- See, Jacobson, Steven A. (1984). Yup’ik Eskimo Dictionary. Alaska Native Language Center. ISBN 978-0-933769-21-2., at pp. 210 (kuik = river), 598 (-yuk = suffix, thing like).
- Hayes, Derek (2004). America Discovered: A Historical Atlas of North American Exploration. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.
- "Koyukuk River Moose Management Plan: 2000–2005" (PDF). Alaska Department of Fish and Game. March 2001. pp. 6–11. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
- Benke, Arthur C., ed., and Cushing, Colbert E., ed.; Bailey, Robert C. (2005). "Chapter 17: Yukon River Basin" in Rivers of North America. Burlington, Massachusetts: Elsevier Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-088253-1. OCLC 59003378.
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