Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is one of the most extensively studied fish species in the world due to its significance in aquaculture, fisheries and ongoing conservation efforts to protect declining populations. Yet, limited genomic resources have hampered our understanding of genetic architecture in the species and the genetic basis of adaptation to the wide range of natural and artificial environments it occupies. In this study, we describe the development of a medium-density Atlantic salmon single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array based on expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and genomic sequencing. The array was used in the most extensive assessment of population genetic structure performed to date in this species. A total of 6176 informative SNPs were successfully genotyped in 38 anadromous and freshwater wild populations distributed across the species natural range. Principal component analysis clearly differentiated European and North American populations, and within Europe, three major regional genetic groups were identified for the first time in a single analysis. We assessed the potential for the array to disentangle neutral and putative adaptive divergence of SNP allele frequencies across populations and among regional groups. In Europe, secondary contact zones were identified between major clusters where endogenous and exogenous barriers could be associated, rendering the interpretation of environmental influence on potentially adaptive divergence equivocal. A small number of markers highly divergent in allele frequencies (outliers) were observed between (multiple) freshwater and anadromous populations, between northern and southern latitudes, and when comparing Baltic populations to all others. We also discuss the potential future applications of the SNP array for conservation, management and aquaculture. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.