Yakima Basin Overview

The Yakima River Basin in south central Washington makes up 10% of the State (6,100 square miles). The basin runs from the crest of the Cascade Mountains to the Columbia River. Nearly 40 percent of the basin is forested, another 40 percent is rangeland, with 15 percent in cropland. The irrigated lowlands support some of the most diverse and productive agriculture in the United States. Hops, mint, apples, cherries and pears, wine and juice grapes, hay, beef cattle and dairies are all important crops.

The basin includes part of the Tri-Cities, Yakima, Ellensburg and many smaller towns, and is supported by a diverse economy built on agriculture, light manufacturing, education (with Central Washington University in Ellensburg and Yakima Community College in Yakima), the Army's Yakima Training Center and the Department of Energy clean up of the Hanford site. The basin's population is roughly 300,000 and is the homeland of the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation, whose tribal government is based in Toppenish.

The US Bureau of Reclamation operates the Yakima Project, which supplies irrigation water to most of the basin's agriculture. Water is stored in the 5 large reservoirs (Kecheelus, Kachess, Cle Elum, Rimrock and Bumping Lakes) and released to supply irrigation diversions throughout the basin.

The single largest landowner is the U.S government with 1.5 million acres (38%) of the land area. Most of the federal land is within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Other large federal land holding include the U.S. Army Yakima Training Center, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and Bureau of Land Management lands (BLM). Other public ownership (state, county, and local governments) total over 400,000 acres. The Yakama Indian Reservation covers 1,573 square miles (1,371,918 acres) in Yakima and Klickitat counties, from the summit of Mount Adams to the lowlands of the Yakima Valley.

The mainstem Yakima River, the Naches River and their many tributaries support a wide range of fish species. The many distinct habitats, ranging from alpine areas and wet mountain forest to dry sagebrush grasslands, support an impressive diversity of plants and wildlife. The basin's natural resources have sustained local forestry and ranching industries, and the rivers supply the water critical for the area's agricultural economy. Outdoor recreation is an increasingly important part of the economy, with hunting, skiing, trophy fly fishing, wilderness trails, rafting, snowmobiling and 4 wheeling all popular.