Yakima Canyon Ranch
In 2021, Western Rivers Conservancy set out to conserve Yakima Canyon Ranch, which spans 3.5 stunning miles of the Yakima River in eastern Washington. The Yakima is one of the West’s premier streams, known for its fly fishing, recreational floating, spectacular river canyon, and unique wildlife. Named after the indigenous Yakama people, the river flows 214 miles from its Keechelus Lake headwaters on the rugged eastern slope of the Cascades to the Columbia River, just south of the town of Richland. It is the state’s longest river of origin and is colloquially known as Washington’s only blue ribbon trout stream, a term that points to its world-class fly fishing and public accessibility.
Most of the canyon is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and protected within the BLM’s Yakima Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), but a handful of pivotal reaches remain unprotected. One of them is the 647-acre Yakima Canyon Ranch, which sits on two sides of the river along a dramatic horseshoe bend. The ranch lies at the epicenter of some of Washington’s best fly fishing water, with outstanding river access, good camping, and excellent fish and wildlife habitat in all directions.
We plan to convey it to the BLM for protection within the ACEC, ensuring more uniform management of the area for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation. The project will protect migratory habitat for salmon and steelhead as well as excellent habitat for California bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, and a myriad of small mammals and birds. The canyon's crevices and cliffs make a perfect home for the densest concentration of nesting hawks, eagles, and falcons in the state. Our efforts will also improve the continuity of public access along the river and deliver permanent access to the popular Big Horn boat launch.
Now that we've purchased the ranch, we will hold it until we can secure an appropriation from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, allowing us to convey the property to the BLM. Once that happens, this premier stretch of the Yakima will be permanently protected for the sake of fish and wildlife, and public access to nearly four more miles of the Yakima River Canyon will be guaranteed for good.
Western Rivers Conservancy buys land along the West’s finest rivers and streams to conserve habitat for fish and wildlife, protect key sources of cold water and provide public access for all to enjoy.
Western Rivers Conservancy is the only organization dedicated exclusively to saving the great rivers of the West through land acquisition. We buy critical properties along our finest rivers and streams to conserve habitat, protect key sources of cold water, and provide public access for all to enjoy.
We partner with long-term stewards like the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, state parks, tribes, and universities to ensure our conservation results are permanent. Western Rivers Conservancy has created sanctuaries for fish and wildlife and secured recreational access along more than 200 rivers and streams around the West. Our approach is effective, tangible, and permanent.
WRC’s projects vary widely in size and scale, but they all have one thing in common: impact. When we set out to buy and permanently conserve riverlands, our efforts deliver an outsized benefit to the river—and to the fish, wildlife, and people that depend on it.
For more information on the Western Rivers Conservancy, visit their website by clicking this link.