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The Kuskokwim River or Kusko River (Kusquqvak in Central Yup'ik) is a river, approximately 724 miles (1,165 km) long, in Southwest Alaska in the United States. It is the ninth largest river in the United States of America, ranked by average discharge volume at its mouth; seventeenth largest by basin drainage area.

The river provides the principal drainage for an area of the remote Alaska Interiormarker on the north and west side of the Alaska Range, flowing southwest into Kuskokwim Bay on the Bering Seamarker. Except for its headwaters in the mountains, the river is broad and flat for its entire course, making it a useful transportation route for many types of watercraft. It is the longest free flowing river in the United States. It is also the longest river entirely within one state in the U.S., edging out the Trinity Rivermarker of Texas by .

Kuskokwim in Yupik is a loose translation of a Yup'ik word to English. It is a compound word means big slow moving thing.


Eskimo name apparently obtained in 1818 by Ustiugov (cnna) and published by Lt. Sarichev (1826, map 3), IRN, as "Ryka Kuskokvim". Tanana Indian name for the stream was "Chin-ana", now obsolete except among the old Indians.


Heading at the confluence of East Fork Kuskokwim River and North Fork Kuskokwim River, east of Medra, and flowing SW to Kuskokwim Bay and the Bering Seamarker; Yukon-Kuskokwim Deltamarker.

Inuit at Moravian Mission Station at Kuskokwim River in the year 1900


It rises in several forks in central and south central Alaska. The North Fork (250 mi/400 km) rises in the Kuskokwim Mountains approximately 200 miles (320 km) WSW of Fairbanksmarker and flows southwest in a broad valley. The South Fork (200 mi/320 km) rises in the southwestern end of the Alaska Range.west of Mount Gerdine and flows NNW through the mountains, past Nikolaimarker, and receiving other headstreams that descends from the Alaska Range northwest of Mount McKinleymarker. The two forks join near Medfra and flows southwest, past McGrathmarker, in a remote valley between the Kuskokwim Mountains to the north and the Alaska Range to the south.

In southwest Alaska in emerges from the Kuskokwim Mountains in a vast lake-studded alluvial plain south of the Yukon Rivermarker, surrounded by vast spruce forests. It passes a series of Eskimo villages, including Aniakmarker, and approaches within 50 mi (80 km) of the Yukon before diverging southwest. Southwest of Bethelmarker, the largest community on the river, it broadens into a wide marshy delta that enters Kuskokwim Bay approximately 50 mi (80 km) SSW of Bethel. The lower river below Aniak is located within the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refugemarker.

It receives the Big River from the south approximately 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Medfra. It receives the Swiftmarker, Stonymarker, and Holitnamarker rivers from the south at the southern end of the Kuskokwim Mountains before emerging on the coastal plain. It receives the Aniak Rivermarker from the south at Aniak. Approximately 20 miles (32 km) upstream from Bethel it receives the Kisaralik and Kwethluk rivers from the south. It receives the Eek Rivermarker from the east at Eekmarker near its mouth on Kuskokwim Bay.


The principal economic activities along the river have historically been fur trapping and fishing. Subsistence fishing for chinook salmon provides a staple of the Eskimo diet along the river. Economic deposits of placer gold were discovered in 1901 near Aniak Mineral production in the region has mainly been from scattered placer gold deposits, with a total of 3.5 million troy ounces of gold produced. The primary route of the Iditarod Trail follows the South Fork Kuskokwim River out of the Alaska Range and, farther westward, crosses the main branch near McGrath.


  1. Economic Geology Monograph 9, Mineral Deposits of Alaska, Precious Metals Associated with Late Cretaceous-Early Tertiary Igneous Rocks of Southwestern Alaska, Bundtzen and Miller, 1997, pp242-286

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