Yakima River Canyon Preserve

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.


Near Yakima in Central Washington


105 Acres

Why the Conservancy 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 the Conservancy 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.


Yakima River Canyon Preserve Location Map

Click on map to enlarge image.

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.

Yakima River Canyon is open year-round during daylight hours only.

  • From Seattle: Take interstate 90 east to exit 109; turn left off the exit ramp on to the Yakima Canyon road; drive through Yakima Canyon to Red’s Fly Shop. The preserve is adjacent to Red’s to the north (upstream).
  • Turn around in Red’s parking lot and find a place along the highway shoulder to pull off.
  • In the fall and winter, wade across the shallow side channel out to the island part of the preserve.
  • Another way to access the preserve is by boat: Raft the Yakima River from the top of the canyon for an all day excursion, or put in at the Umptanum access area upstream from the preserve. Red’s Fly Shop offers raft rentals, including delivery and pickup.

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

comments powered by Disqus

Read our guidelines on posting comments


Stay Updated

Learn about the places you love and find out how you can help by signing up for Nature eNews.

I'm already on the list Read our privacy policy

Thank you for joining our online community!

We'll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates, and exciting stories.