Geographic variation at an Mhc class I A1 exon was surveyed in 14 populations of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and 15 populations of chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) inhabiting rivers of British Columbia, Canada. A total of 2,504 fish were sampled using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), which distinguished 17 alleles in coho salmon and 20 alleles in chinook salmon. Heterozygosity at the A1 locus was moderately high for both coho (0.7) and chinook (0.6) salmon, but sequence divergence was low, with mean inter- and intraspecific nucleotide similarities of approximately 0.96. In a maximum parsimony tree, all of the observed alleles clustered into two trans-specific lineages. Within each lineage, coho and chinook alleles tended to fall into species-specific subclusters. Much of the intraspecific allelic variation within each lineage could be accounted for by nonsynonymous point mutation, indicative of balancing selection. The Fst values for both coho (0.11) and chinook (0.13) salmon indicated that much of the allelic diversity was partitioned among populations. Neighbor-joining analyses of A1 allelic frequencies among coho and chinook salmon populations showed strong patterns of geographic differentiation similar to those based on neutral genetic markers such as microsatellite loci. Both natural selection and the salmonid zoogeographic history of frequent population bottlenecks have shaped the patterns of diversity observed at this and other Mhc exons in Pacific salmonids.