Yakima River

The Yakima River skirts the southern edge of Ellensburg. It is one of Washington State's most important rivers providing a source of water for the large agriculture industry in the Yakima Valley. The river provides irrigation for pastures, apples, pears, cherries, grapes, hops, and field crops. Seventy–five percent of the United States' hops are grown in the Yakima Valley. It has also recently become a popular area for vineyards and wineries, producing several excellent wines.

Yakima River Canyon looking north

The river starts near the western edge of Kittitas County flowing out of Lake Keechelus in the Cascade Mountains, at an elevation of 2,449 feet. From there, it flows 214 miles in a largely southeastern direction before its confluence with the Columbia River in Richland, Washington, at an elevation of 340 feet. The river flows through or near the cities of Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Yakima, Toppenish, and Sunnyside. Despite being controlled by dams, the river occasionally floods and has caused recent damage to the Ellensburg area.

Yakima River Canyon looking south

The Yakima River takes its name from the Native American tribe known as the Yakama. Native Americans have lived in the area for centuries. The first western explorers to visit the river were Lewis and Clark. In early October 1805, they stopped at the river's confluence with the Columbia but did not proceed upstream.

The river is popular for fishing, rafting and kayaking. It is at its peak flow in the late spring and early summer months providing the best rafting conditions. The river is particularly scenic in the Yakima River Canyon between Ellensburg and Selah. In the canyon, the river cuts through sheer basalt rock cliffs towering several thousand feet above. This stretch of the river is very popular for fishing, hiking and rafting. Big Horn Sheep can also been seen in this area. Please see our page on Yakima River Picturesfor more great photos from the area.