State 31 of 50: Washington – Yakima River

Relaxing Paddle on a River Oasis
Date Paddled:  September 12, 2018
Nearest City:  Ellensburg, WA
Put-In: Umtanum
Take-Out: Roza Dam
Duration: 4 hrs
River Miles: ~14
Shuttle: Lady adventurer
Weather: Sunny, warm 73, light winds, some clouds
Difficulty: Class I, I+
Cfs: 1200

As is easy to see from the image below, the Yakima is a ribbon of relief in an otherwise dry canyon-y land. This made for a day filled with wildlife – especially mom deer and one or more young ones eating or drinking with only slight concern for paddlers. Many herons, hawks, bald eagle, mergansers, and other diving ducks with song birds, magpies, and woodpeckers filled out our day.YakimaAfter the restless and rapid meandering of many western rivers, the Yakima displayed a more gentle character. The meanders were more rounded and long, the rapids easy and fun.  Even the camping was convenient with shuttle provided by a brave  woman adventurer who had been living out of her van for the past year.

The put in was by a lovely pedestrian bridge, the take out conveniently at the campground. We understand that this river sees lots of action in the summer months, especially near Ellensburg, but we were happy to have it to ourselves except for a few picturesque fly fisherman.DSCN7427The surrounding cliffs were made from a variety of stone and topped with basalt columns that formed during the last major geologic event about 7,000 years ago. The Deschutes formation created amazing hexagonal basalt columns throughout Washington and Oregon.DSCN7476

After paddling through deep canyon, we came to the beginnings of caves. They were adorned with swallow nests and covered by spider webs and dragonfly and mayfly exoskeletons. So many in fact that it had us wondering whether it had rained in the past ten years! DSCN7467

Days like this one on the Yakima make me feel abundantly blessed – great river, perfect weather, amazing cliffs and wildlife…it’s easy to spend the whole day filled with gratitude. Some people like to sit and meditate, I prefer floating and active meditation. If I find my mind wandering to problems or To Do’s, I simply watch the reflection of the sunlight on the water, bouncing and changing, deeper and lighter and easily slip back into the moment, grateful, present, filled with love for this incredible journey…the literal as well as the metaphoric one…DSCN9747



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