Yakima River Canyon, Wash.
Yakima River Canyon Yakima River Canyon, Wash. © Benjamin Drummond

Places We Protect

Washington

Yakima River Canyon Preserve

A desert oasis in eastern Washington.

Why You Should Visit

Sheer basalt rock cliffs frame the Yakima River Canyon, casting shadows on the sparkling waters below. Located between Yakima and Ellensburg, the 15-mile canyon rises as much as 2,000 feet above the river that carved it. These rock faces are home to the densest concentration of nesting hawks, eagles and falcons in the state. A rare plant—the endangered basalt daisy—grows only in the Yakima River Canyon and one of its tributaries.

Why TNC Selected this Site

The Conservancy established its Yakima River Canyon preserve in 1993 to protect the fragile and unique habitats there. The preserve includes 105 acres of basalt cliff as well as important grasslands and an island in the middle of the Yakima River.

What TNC is Doing

Cooperating with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, The Nature Conservancy began a long-range protection program for the canyon with the acquisition of a 391-acre parcel of grassland and cliff habitat in 1992. The program ensures the protection of plant and animal life, as well as scenic and recreational resources which significantly benefit the region's residents and economy. The Conservancy transferred a portion of the parcel to the Bureau of Land Management for management under the agency's Yakima River Canyon Management Plan. The Nature Conservancy still retains 105 of those acres.

What to See: Plants

The sagebrush habitat along the rocky canyon supports the hardiest of plants, while water-dependent species grow close to the river. Visitors enjoy colorful desert wildflowers, fragrant shrubs, and a few ponderosa pines and quaking aspen all on a short walk.

What to See: Animals

In addition to the hawks, eagles and falcons that nest here, the preserve is also home to great blue herons, osprey, big horn sheep, deer, elk, several species of small mammals, and rattlesnakes. The riparian plants along the river provide habitat for birds, amphibians and fish.