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The Stikine River ( ) is a river, historically also the Stickeen River, approximately 379 mi (610 km) long, in northwestern British Columbiamarker in Canadamarker and southeastern Alaskamarker in the United Statesmarker. Considered one of the last truly wild rivers in British Columbiamarker, it drains a rugged pristine area east of the Coast Mountainsmarker, cutting a fast-flowing course through the mountains in deep glacier-lined gorges to empty into Eastern Passage, just north of the city of Wrangellmarker, which is situated at the north end of Wrangell Islandmarker in the Alexander Archipelagomarker. The name of the river comes from its Tlingit name Shtax' Héen, meaning "cloudy river (with the milt of spawning salmon)", or alternately "bitter waters (from the tidal estuaries at its mouth)". Its watershed encompasses approximately 20,000 mi² (52,000 km²). Its Grand Canyonmarker was compared by naturalist John Muir to Yosemite.


The Stikine river arises in the Spatsizi Plateaumarker, the southeasternmost subplateau of the Stikine Plateaumarker, a large partly-mountanous plateau lying between the Stikine Rangesmarker of the Cassiar Mountainsmarker (E) and the Boundary Ranges (W) in northern British Columbia, and flows in a large northward arc turning to the west and southwest, past the gold rush and Tahltan community of Telegraph Creekmarker. Above Telegraph Creek is the spectacular 45 mi (75 km) long and 1,000-ft (300-m) deep Grand Canyon of the Stikinemarker, the upper end of which is in the area of the 130th Line of Longitude. Below Telegraph Creek, which was at the head of river navigation during the Stikine and Cassiar Gold Rushes, the river cuts through the Tahltan Highlandmarker and in this region are the confluences of the Tuya and Tahltan Riversmarker. Much farther down, nearer the U.S. border, is the confluence of the Iskutmarker and several other notably large (though short) rivers such as the Porcupinemarker and Chutinemarker. After passing Great Glaciermarker and Choquette Hot Springs Provincial Parksmarker and the old border-station at Stikine, British Columbiamarker, it passes through a steeply-cut gorge in the Boundary Ranges along the Canada-U.S. border, and above that Grand Canyon of the Stikine. It briefly enters southeast Alaska for its lower 40 mi (64 km) to form a delta opposite Mitkof Island, approximately 25 mi (40 km) north of Wrangellmarker at the confluence of Frederick Soundmarker and Sumner Straitmarker. The USGS describes its estuary as being Eastern Passage, which is the fjord-channel on the east side of Wrangell Islandmarker, separating it from the mainland.

An international river

The outlet of the river is now in Alaska, but at the time of the boundary survey in 1901-03 it had been at the boundary; the lower part of the river has since filled in from aggradation. According to the terms of the treaty, as per prior usage by mining and commercial traffic in the Stikine, Canadian marine traffic technically has the right of navigation of this river from the sea, independent of US border controls, but this is no longer in practical effect through disuse and because of the relocation of the river's mouth.


The Stikine's main tributaries are, in descending order from its source:


The river is navigable for approximately 130 mi (210 km) upstream from its mouth. It was used by the coastal Tlingit as a transportation route to the interior region. The first European to explore the river was Samuel Black, who visited the headwaters during his Finlay River expedition in 1824. It was more extensively explored in 1838 by Robert Campbell, of the Hudson's Bay Company, completing the last link in the company's transcontinental canoe route. In 1879 the lower third was travelled by John Muir who likened it to "a Yosemite that was a hundred miles (160 kilometers) long". Muir recorded over 300 glaciers along the river's course. The Grand Canyon of the Stikinemarker has been successfully navigated by less than 50 expert whitewater kayakers.From 1897–1898 it furnished one of the principal routes to the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon Territorymarker. The first road bridge was built across the river in the 1970s as part of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. In 1980, BC Hydro began to study the feasibility of building a five-dam project in the Grand Canyon, however the plan quickly led to opposition by conservation groups and a long struggle over the fate of the river. The mouth of the river in the United States provides a habitat for migratory birds and is protected as part of the Stikine-LeConte Wildernessmarker Area.

The river is noted for its prolific salmon runs despite heavy depletion by commercial fish traps during the early 20th century. The force of the current in the river's Grand Canyon limits the salmon runs to the lower one-third of the river, and to its lower tributaries.

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