Water discharge data of the Yellow River over the past 60 years was analyzed using the continuous wavelet transform (CWT) and Mann-Kendall (MK) test methods to identify spatial and temporal variation patterns. Potential connections between water discharge in the Yellow River Basin and El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) were also examined by the cross wavelet and wavelet coherence methods. CWT results show that the periodic oscillations in water discharges had occurred at the temporal scales of 1-, 2- to 4-, 6- to 8- and 10- to 22-year. It was also found that at the annual timescale (1-year) the phase relations between water discharge and ENSO were indistinct probably due to the strong influence by human disturbances. However, over the longer time scales, the phase relation becomes much clearer with an anti-phase relation being found mainly at inter-annual scale (2- to 8-year) and in-phase relation at decadal scale (16- to 22-year). According to the MK test results water discharge at most stations except Tangnaihai have decreased significantly and the abrupt change occurred in the mid-1980s or the early 1990s. The changes in water discharge were found to be influenced by both climate changes and human activities. Before 1970 the change in water discharge was positively related to precipitation variations in the river basin, but after 1970 the decrease in water discharge has been largely caused by various human activities including constructions of reservoirs, water abstraction and water-soil conservation with water abstraction being the main cause.