By Western Rivers Conservancy
Rare Opportunity on Washington’s only Blue Ribbon Trout Stream
In the upper reaches of Washington’s scenic Yakima River Canyon, Western Rivers Conservancy has embarked on an effort to conserve a four-mile stretch of the Yakima River by conserving the 812-acre Yakima Canyon Ranch. The ranch, which sits on two sides of the river on a dramatic horseshoe bend, lies at the heart of some of the best fly fishing water in the state, with outstanding river access, camping and excellent fish and wildlife habitat in every direction.
The Yakima is one of Washington’s premier rivers. Named after the indigenous Yakama people, it 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 Washington’s longest river that flows entirely within the state and its only Blue Ribbon trout stream. (This is an informal designation used to identify a river’s world-class fly fishing status, indicating a river’s overall health as well as its public accessibility.) Historically, the Yakima was one of the Columbia Basin’s major producers of salmon and steelhead, but dams and a century of water withdrawals on the Yakima have degraded fish runs.
The stretch of the river we are working to conserve lies in the upper canyon, most of which is protected within the BLM’s Yakima Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). But a handful of pivotal reaches, including the Yakima Canyon Ranch, remain unprotected. Acquiring this property and placing it into BLM ownership will add the ranch’s lands to the ACEC, ensuring more uniform management of the area for the benefit of fish and wildlife. It will protect migratory habitat for salmon and steelhead and excellent habitat for bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer and a myriad of small mammals and birds.
The project will also improve continuity of public access along the river. The entire Yakima River Canyon, which is nestled against the Wenas Wildlife Area to the west, is a favorite destination for birders and hikers and a coveted location for fly anglers, who come from all over to fish this renowned Blue Ribbon stream. Transferring the ranch to the BLM will improve access for everyone venturing into the canyon and onto the river alike.
Our next step is to buy and hold the ranch 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 protected forever, and public access to four more miles of the Yakima River Canyon will be guaranteed for good. Most importantly, the area’s wildlife will always be able to find refuge along this special stretch of the Yakima River.
For more information here is a link to the Western Rivers Conservancy site and the above article: