This 15-mile canyon of sheer basalt rock cliffs rises 2,000 feet above the Yakima River as it runs from Ellensburg south to Yakima. This 105-acre preserve is home to nesting hawks, eagles and falcons as well as the endangered basalt daisy – a rare plant that grows only in this canyon and one of its tributaries.

In 1992, the Nature Conservancy acquired 391 acres of grassland and cliff habitat and began a long-term protection program. One year later, the preserve was established to protect these unique and fragile habitats. This program provides recreational resources benefiting the local economy while at the same time providing protection of the unique plant and animal life. The Nature Conservancy transferred a portion of this parcel and still retains 105 acres.

Enjoy a scenic drive through the canyon or get out and stretch your legs and walk alongside the colorful desert wildflowers, shrubs, ponderosa pines and the plants along the river which provide habitat for birds and fish. Other animals that can be seen in this region include the great blue heron, osprey, big horn sheep, deer and elk. In late summer and fall, take a refreshing paddling trip down the Yakima river or bring your fly fishing gear as catch-and-release regulations have made these waters extremely productive for trout fishing.

For more information on the Yakima River Canyon Preserve, please click here and for more information on paddling, please click here.


  • 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). Wade across in low water, or come down the river by boat to reach the Preserve.


Written by Noelle van deer Straaten, Volunteer