Tanana River

Alaska Marine Highway

Alaska has a bounty of beautiful waterways. The Alaskan waterways play an integral role in the state.. Be sure and check out our Alaska water pages including: Alaska's Coastline, Alaska's Lakes, and Alaska's Rivers. Some of Alaska's great lakes include: Aleknagik LakeBecharof Lake, Clark Lakeliamna Lake, and  Minchumina Lake


The Tanana River is a 584-mile  tributary of the Yukon River in the state of Alaska.. According to anthropologist William Bright, the name is from the Koyukon and  means "trail river".

The river's headwaters are located at the confluence of the Chisana and Nabesna rivers just north of Northway in eastern Alaska. The Tanana flows in a northwest direction from near the border with the Yukon Territory, and laterally along the northern slope of the Alaska Range, roughly paralleled by the Alaska Highway. In central Alaska, it emerges into a lowland marsh region known as the Tanana Valley and passes south of the city of Fairbanks.In the marsh regions, The Tanana River is joined by several large tributaries, including the Nenana and the Kantishna. It empties into the Yukon approximately 70 miles  downriver from the village of Manley Hot Springs, near the town of Tanana.

There is no fishing (except with bait for burbot) in the Tanana.  The river runs with incredibly turbid glacial melt-water in which game fishing is pretty much impossible. You literally can't see an inch into it,

Ice on the river accumulates each winter to an average maximum thickness of 43 inches at Nenana. The Nenana Ice Classic, begun in 1917, is an annual guessing game about the date of the ice break-up. In October or November, after the freeze has begun, a tripod is planted in ice in the middle of the river. The tripod is connected to an on-shore clock that stops when the tripod begins to move during the spring thaw. Over the years, the break-up date has varied from April 20 to May 20. Betting on the exact time of the break-up takes the form of a lottery. In 2010, after the ice went out on April 29, three lottery winners split a jackpot of $279,030  In 2011 the river officially broke up on May 4, 2011 at 4:24 PM. The $338,062.00 jackpot  was split between 22 winners.

Human habitation of the Yukon basin, including the Tanana watershed, began more than 12,000 years ago. Several sites in the watershed have produced evidence of occupation by Paleo-Arctic people. Later residents include people of the Tanana tribe, which has had a presence in the region for 1,200 years.

In the summer of 1885, Lieutenant Henry Tureman Allen of the U.S. Army undertook the first recorded exploration of the Tanana River. In 1883, Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka and his party had entered the Yukon watershed by way of Canada and floated to the mouth of the Yukon. Allen's goal was to find an all-Alaska route to the Yukon River. He and his men ascended the Copper River, crossed into Tanana River drainage, and descended the Tanana to the Yukon and down it to the mouth. During the five-month trip, the Allen party mapped the courses of the Copper, Tanana, and Koyukuk rivers.

In the early 21st century, the basin is largely wilderness unchanged by human activity. Fairbanks, a metropolitan area with about 80,000 residents in 2005, is a center of placer gold mining, which has continued in the basin since the mid-19th century. Limited farming also occurs in the valley near Fairbanks.

A key federal environmental regulator has cleared a permit for the Alaska Railroad’s plans to bridge the Tanana River near Salcha. The bridge would be the longest in the state and would connect the highway system to extensive military training grounds south of the river. It is part of a larger proposed eastward rail expansion. The bridge may be started in the summer of 2012.

The State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, in cooperation with the Alaska Division of the Federal Highway Administration, is currently working on a project to remove and replace the existing Tanana River Bridge #505. The new 903 foot six span precast, pre-stressed concrete "T" girder bridge will replace the existing Tanana River Bridge #505, realign approximately one mile of highway to match the approaches to the new bridge, relocate the boat ramp/parking area and construct a new wayside near the east abutment of the existing bridge with interpretive displays.

The Chena River is a 10-mile-long river at Alaska, flowing into the Tanana River near Fairbanks, Alaska. The Tanana River itself is a major tributary to the Yukon River. On its banks the city of Fairbanks was founded around 1902. Today Fairbanks is the second-largest city in the state of Alaska.










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Alaska's Rivers:

More than 12,000 rivers have been counted, but this number does not include thousands of minor tributaries. The nine major rivers are listed below:

Colville River Copper River Gulkana River
Kuskokwim River Noatak River Porcupine River
Susitna River Tanana River Yukon River.
The tanana river in alaska as the ice is breaking up

Tanana river bridge in Alaska