From its headwaters in a heavily glaciated area in British Columbia, south of the lower Iskut River, the Unuk flows west and south for 129 kilometres (80 mi), crossing into Alaska and emptying into Burroughs Bay, an inlet of Behm Canal. In Alaska the river flows through the Misty Fjords National Monument.
In Tlingit it is called Joonáx̱, the meaning of which is obscure but may have to do with dreaming (cf. aawajoon “he dreamed”). It is occasionally referred to as Oonáx̱, which is a reduced form. The USGS reports that a 1906 publication said the correct name for the river is “Junuk” or “Junock”, but it is unclear whether the initial sound is supposed to be an affricate [dʒ] or an approximant [j]. The former sound would reflect the full Tlingit name, the latter the English adaptation.
- Unuk River Chinook Salmon Studies, Alaska Department of Fish and Game
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Unuk River
The name Unuk is derived from the Tlingit name for the area, Joonáxh (Place of Dreams).