From the grassy hillsides to the rocky ridges, wide-open meadows, and bountiful rivers and lakes — all these features make the beautiful Yakima area the ideal home, not just for residents but also for the diverse array of wildlife that shares that home with us. And with the Yakima Valley having nearly 300 days of sunshine each year, there’s plenty of daylight to spot some of these amazing creatures. This, paired with the federally managed wildlife preserves in the area, means that there is also plenty of accessible opportunities to catch a glimpse of Yakima’s natural wildlife!

Natural Wildlife Viewing in Yakima
More than 1,200 elk call the Oak Creek State Wildlife Area their home and can be seen throughout the year here. Photo credit: Peggy Jennings

Oak Creek State Wildlife Area

16601 US-12, Naches

Known for its solid rock quality of various routes among the Yakima climbing community, the Tieton River Valley at the entrance to White Pass is one of the Valley’s best-kept secrets when it comes to viewing wildlife in its natural habitat. This area, known as the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, consists of over 67,100 acres that Yakima’s natural wildlife call home.

The Naches and Tieton Rivers run through portions of this wildlife area, with these rivers supporting native and endangered salmon species, including bull trout. Other wildlife species are also visible throughout the area, including elk, mule deer, California bighorn sheep, mountain goats, forest grouse, turkey, quail, chukar, and a myriad of small mammals. A variety of neo-tropical and upland birds, raptors, reptiles, and amphibians can also be seen in the area, so keep your eyes peeled when walking about.

Yakima River Canyon

Natural Wildlife Viewing in Yakima
If you want to catch a glimpse at some bighorn sheep and rams like the one pictured, consider paying Yakima River Canyon a visit. Photo credit: Bruce Skotland

The highest concentration of hawks, eagles, and falcons in not only Yakima but all of Washington, can be found along the 27 miles that make up the Yakima River Canyon. The canyon is perfect for avian friends, as well as many other species of wildlife, thanks to the canyon’s wide variety of habitats, including aquatic, riparian, shrub-step, sheer cliffs, and a number of unique microhabitats as well.

From the river to the rim, a diverse mixture of flora and fauna calls the canyon home, including Big Horn sheep, mule deer, a dense concentration of nesting hawks, and even the basalt daisy, a rare and endangered plant that grows only in the Yakima River Canyon.

Cowiche Canyon Conservancy

302 N. 3rd St., Suite 201, Yakima

Connecting people to nature in the Yakima community is Cowiche Canyon Conservancy (CCC). This non-profit land trust in Yakima protects the area’s shrub-steppe habitat, which is itself a unique landscape made up of sagebrush and grasslands, flowering meadows, oak woodlands, and basalt cliffs.

This type of habitat is the perfect type of living conditions for plenty of wildlife, including the hundreds of varieties of birds and raptors that call the CCC home. Don’t forget to stop by the butterfly conservancy during your animal viewing adventures, and remember to watch out for rattlesnakes on the trails!

Toppenish Wildlife Refuge

Natural Wildlife Viewing in Yakima
Keep your eyes peeled just as good as our owl friends when walking the wilderness of the Toppenish Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: James Matyas Pace

21 Pumphouse Rd., Toppenish

The Toppenish Wildlife Refuge has served Yakima since 1964 as a preserve for migratory waterfowl. The 2,000 acres that make up the refuge are an essential link in the chain of feeding and resting areas for waterfowl and other migratory birds using the Pacific Flyway.

Though the refuge was primarily established for migratory waterfowl, many other migratory and resident wildlife species benefit from the area and call it home. This is the perfect place to visit for those serious bird watchers looking to be one with nature, as the site is managed strictly for wildlife, and there aren’t a lot of amenities for people.

Yakima Greenway

111 S. 18th St., Yakima

The Yakima Greenway is truly a spectacular place to look for local wildlife while following the 20-mile paved pathway. Along the way, there are several wildlife viewing platforms to stop and catch your breath while looking for blue herons, bald eagles, river trout and more.

Since the river is seldom out of sight, you’re likely to see a variety of songbirds and waterfowl along the water, including geese, ducks, and kingfishers. In the summer, flycatchers, swallows, warblers, and orioles are also found in the area. Be sure to keep an eye out for the gray squirrels who call the greenway home as they dart along the path!

Yakima Area Arboretum

Natural Wildlife Viewing in Yakima
Nature Day Camp is a hopping good time at Yakima Area Arboretum. Photo courtesy: Yakima Area Arboretum

1401 Arboretum Dr., Yakima

Head on over to the Yakima Area Arboretum and stroll along its pristine 46 acres. You might catch a glimpse of the hundreds of varieties of birds that inhabit the grounds throughout the year. Better yet, sign the kiddos and yourself up for a fun day at their Nature Day Camp and learn about all the wild creatures that call the arboretum home, from the creepy crawlies to the fliers and the furry four-legged!

There are limitless opportunities to view our natural wildlife here in Yakima, allowing visitors and locals alike to catch breathtaking glimpses of the fantastic creatures that call the area home. So, the next time you feel like seeing them for yourself, consider exploring any of these local wildlife viewing areas, especially for them!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email