To investigate the genetic basis of drought tolerance in soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.) a recombinant inbred population with 184 F(2:7:11) lines developed from a cross between Kefeng1 (drought tolerant) and Nannong1138-2 (drought sensitive) were tested under water-stressed and well-watered conditions in field and greenhouse trials. Traits measured included leaf wilting coefficient, excised leaf water loss and relative water content as indicators of plant water status and seed yield. A total of 40 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) were identified: 17 for leaf water status traits under drought stress and 23 for seed yield under well-watered and drought-stressed conditions in both field and greenhouse trials. Two seed yield QTLs were detected under both well-watered and drought-stressed conditions in the field on molecular linkage group H and D1b, while two seed yield QTLs on molecular linkage group C2 were found under greenhouse conditions. Several QTLs for traits associated with plant water status were identified in both field and greenhouse trials, including two leaf wilting coefficient QTLs on molecular linkage group A2 and one excised leaf water loss QTL on molecular linkage group H. Phenotypic correlations of traits suggested several QTLs had pleiotropic or location-linked associations. These results will help to elucidate the genetic basis of drought tolerance in soybean, and could be incorporated into a marker-assisted selection breeding program to develop high-yielding soybean cultivars with improved tolerance to drought stress.