Located on the Columbia plateau in Central Washington, the Yakima is the longest river entirely in Washington state, flowing 214 miles from Keechelus Lake to the Columbia river near West Richland. Millions of years ago, the Yakima was a slow, meandering river flowing through a flat basalt plain. Geologic pressure lifted and folded the basalt over many more millions of years. The Yakima River Canyon is a 20 mile stretch of the river between Ellensburg and Selah which was formed as three major ridges, Manashtash, Umtanum and Selah Butte, rose diagonally across the path of Yakima river. This process was slow enough to allow the river to carve a path through the basalt, retain the ancient meanders and create the hills and sheer cliffs that we see in the Canyon today.
The Yakima River Canyon is a popular desination for birders, fly fishers, hikers, bikers (not the safest ride for pedal bikes due to traffic and a narrow, winding roadway), photographers, campers, recreational floaters and sightseers. State Route 821, which parallels the river through the Canyon, was the first highway in Washington to be designated a state scenic byway (1968).The Canyon encompasses a wide variety of habitats- aquatic, riparian, shrub-step, sheer cliffs and a number of unique microhabitats. From river to rim, the Canyon is home to a diverse mixture of Eastern Washington flora and fauna, including Big Horn sheep, mule deer, the densest concentration of nesting hawks, eagles and falcons in the state and the basalt daisy, a rare and endangered plant that grows only in the Yakima River Canyon and one of it's tributaries, Selah Creek.
How the Yakima River Canyon was formed
Ice age floods and Columbia River basalts
Sibley Field Guide To Birds - Western North America | Western Birds (Peterson) | Audubon Field Guides: North American Birds - Western Region / North American Trees - Western Region / North American Flowers - Western Region / North American Mammals | Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest (Turner/Gustafson) | Trees and Shrubs of the Pacific Northwest (Turner/Kuhlmann) | Wildflowers of Washington (Lyons)
I've been fortunate enough to be able to spend quite a bit of time in the Yakima River Canyon over the past 25+ years. As an angler, fly fishing guide, amateur photographer and on many relaxing drives with my wife Bev. This is a small sampling of what's to be found in the Canyon- more will be added as time allows. Flora and Fauna found in the lower half mile or so of Umtanum Canyon has been included. All IDs were made by an amateur, any input to correct or illuminate is welcome. I can be contacted through email here. Bruce.
Website and Photos by Bruce Skotland. All rights reserved.