Wolf Creek Research Basin, YT

Location and Physical Characteristics

  • Located near Whitehorse, Yukon within the Upper Yukon River Basin, representative of much of the interior Subarctic Cordilleran landscape
  • Wolf Creek drainage basin is roughly 200 km2 in area, and has an elevation range of approximately 1300 m
  • Surface landcover consists of dense Boreal Forest at lower elevations, sparse forest, open meadow and shrub tundra at the higher elevations, and exposed alpine areas with mostly bare rock at the highest elevations
  • There are no glaciers in the basin, but there are a number of perennial snowdrift areas on leeward slopes at high elevations 


  • Wolf Creek was initiated as a long-term multidisciplinary research project in 1992, and  began as part of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's Arctic Environmental Strategy, in partnership with Environment Canada's National Hydrology Research Institute 
  • Originally, the Wolf Creek project concentrated on water research, but now research activities have expanded to include climate and climate change, vegetation, forestry, fisheries and wildlife
  • The site was a focal Canadian Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) Program site, linked with the World Climate Program during the Mackenzie GEWEX (MAGS) study
  • Hydrological, cryospheric, and atmospheric research continues in the basin to the present day, supported by the Water Resources Branch of Yukon Environment and by the Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan 

Current Science Focus and Instrumentation

  • Current research is focused primarily on better developing northern hydrological models, and related hydrological process, ecosystem and climate science 
  • The research basin has a number of hydrometeorological stations distributed through three distinct ecosystems (boreal forest, subalpine taiga and alpine tundra)
  • Hydrometeorological measurements in each ecosystem include: air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, precipitation, incoming and outgoing short-wave and long-wave radiation, soil temperature, and soil moisture content
  • Intermittent periods of intense observations include eddy covariance equipment for measuring turbulent fluxes of mass and energy
  • Hydrometric gauges at several tributary streams and at the outlet of Wolf Creek, as well as snow pillows in the lower forest and subalpine tundra parts of the basin are operated by Yukon Environment 
  • The diversity of the watershed, combined with the available long term comprehensive hydrometeorological data, is responsible for the popularity of Wolf Creek as a site to carry out cold regions research by scientists from across Canada and abroad
  • The data availability and diversity also makes Wolf Creek an ideal location for watershed modeling activities

Other Resources and Further Information