The Yakima River is a tributary of the Columbia River in eastern Washington state. The headwaters are located in the Cascade Range, northwest of Cle Elum, Washington flowing through that town, past the city of Yakima, Washington, and continuing southwest to Richland, Washington, where it empties into the Columbia River.
The Yakima River provides irrigation for the dry but fertile land in the Yakima River Valley. A significant portion of the famous "Washington Appless" are grown in the Yakima River Valley. Hops for the production of beer are grown in the valley, and a significant wine industry has formed in the area.
The Yakima River Basin consists of approximately 6,150 square miles (nearly 4 million acres) located in south central Washington State. It is bounded by the Cascade Mountain Range on the west, the Wenatchee Mountains on the north, and Rattlesnake Hills and Horse Heaven Hills to the east and south respectively. The Yakima River Basin encompasses the areas the State of Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) calls the Upper Yakima, Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs) 38 and 39, and the Lower Yakima, WRIA 37, with the dividing line between these northern and southern sections being the confluence of the Naches and Yakima Rivers.
Major landowners include federal and state agencies and the Yakama Indian Nation. The Yakama Nation is the largest landowner with over 1 million acres held in trust.
The forested areas in the northern and western portions of the basin occupy approximately 2,200 square miles and are used for recreation, wildlife habitat, timber harvest, grazing, and Tribal cultural activities.
Range lands comprise about 2,900 square miles and are used for military training, grazing, wildlife habitat, and Tribal cultural activities.
Irrigated agriculture, the economic mainstay of the basin, covers about 1,000 square miles and includes irrigated pastures, orchards, grapes, hops, and field crops.
Major population centers in the basin include the cities of Yakima and Richland. Population growth for the 1990s was projected at 7.9% in Kittitas County, 19.7% in Yakima County and 22.7% in Benton County. While much of the growth in Benton and Yakima counties has been in and around the incorporated areas, most of the growth in Kittitas County has been in unincorporated areas.
The major economic driving forces in the basin have been timber harvest and processing, cattle, agriculture crops and outdoor recreation. With the significant reduction in timber harvesting on federal lands and the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan to protect the endangered Northern Spotted Owl, the economic base attributed to timber has greatly been eroded in the past five years. The close proximity to the high population areas of the Puget Sound region of Washington State have caused a rapid increase in the demand for outdoor recreational experiences in the basin.
(Source: United States EPA Performance Plan)