The Tanana River basin in interior Alaska occupies approximately 11.9 million hectares. Forests of the basin consist of white or black spruce (Picea glauca, P. mariana), tamarack (Larix laricina), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), and balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera). The forests have a disturbance history that has been largely ignored in the planning process. The objective of this paper was to document the type, magnitude, and impact of disturbance on the development of the current forest mosaic. Methodology included archival research and ground truthing archival information. One case study (Tolovana River) is presented. Documented disturbance in the basin is more extensive and varied than previously believed. Athabascan Indians and non-Athabascans used fire extensively for controlling mosquitoes and gnats, hunting, and signaling, as well as for houses, domestic heating, and cooking. Both set fires intentionally and accidentally. Wood was burned as fuel for steamboats and railroad locomotives, to produce commercial electricity, and to melt permafrost for mining. Wood was used for ties and trestles, corduroy roads, mine timbers, piling, planking, and lumber. Timber harvest often extended to the stream edge: it was often followed by burning. Smoke from fires was common during the summer. Evidence was found to suggest that timber harvest in the first half of the twentieth century greatly exceeded current levels of harvest in the interior. The importance of such disturbance is discussed in terms of resource planning and fire management.