Yakima River

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The Yakima River is a tributary of the Columbia River in south central and eastern Washington State, named for the indigenous Yakama people. The length of the river from headwaters to mouth is 214 miles (344 km), with an average drop of 9.85 feet per mile (1.866 m/km).



The river rises in the Cascade Range at an elevation of 2,449 feet (746 m) at Keechelus Dam on Keechelus Lake near Snoqualmie Pass, northwest of Cle Elum. The river flows through that town, skirts Ellensburg, passes the city of Yakima, and continues southeast to Richland, where it flows into the Columbia River at an elevation of 340 feet (100 m).


The Yakima River is used for rafting and kayaking, especially around the Ellensburg area during the summer months. The Yakima River is ranked between Class I and Class II rapids, depending on the circumstances and season.


The first western explorers to visit the river were Lewis and Clark on or about October 17, 1805. They stopped briefly at the confluence of the Yakima and the Columbia, although they did not proceed upriver. The river was then known to local Native Americans as 'Tap Teel', although the area has been inhabited since prehistory.

Yakima Valley

The Yakima River Basin consists of approximately 6,150 square miles (15,900 km2) located in south central Washington State. It is bounded by the Cascade Mountains on the west, the Wenatchee Mountains on the north, Rattlesnake Mountain and the Rattlesnake Hills on the east, and the Horse Heaven Hills to the south. The basin encompasses areas designated by the Washington Department of Ecology as the Upper Yakima Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs) 38 and 39 and the Lower Yakima WRIA 37. The dividing line between these northern and southern sections is the confluence of the Naches and Yakima Rivers.

The Yakima River provides irrigation for the dry but fertile land in the valley, and irrigated agriculture is the economic base. Agricultural land totals 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2), including irrigated pastures, orchards, grapes, hops, and field crops. A significant portion of Washington apples and cherries are grown in the valley, as well as most (75%) of the United States's hops. Since the late 20th century, the wine industry has grown rapidly in the area. It is the location of the Yakima Valley AVA, a designated American Viticultural Area.

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