The Yakima River Canyon contains some of the finest views, outstanding water recreation and unique terrain and wildlife in Central Washington. Connecting Ellensburg to the North and the Yakima Valley in the South, State Route (SR) 821 winds along the river through the canyon. The canyon is a treasure for residents, visitors and outdoor enthusiasts. Former Governor Daniel Evans led the effort to get SR 821 as Washington’s first Scenic Byway in 1968.
As part of that designation, a plan was developed to improve the corridor. Some forty years later many of the goals are still unmet while use of the river and corridor has grown, creating new challenges. Through the leadership of the Cascade Land Conservancy, various community leaders, civic organizations and governmental agencies in Kittitas and Yakima Counties formally came together this week to form the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway Partnership. An immediate goal of the Partnership is to update the Corridor Management Plan for the route, which will help to identify various recreational, traffic safety and facility needs along the corridor. In addition, an interpretive center is envisioned at Helen McCabe Park that would include displays, interpretive trails and other features that showcase the geology, wildlife and history of the canyon.
The Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention and Visitors Bureau (VCB) will play an active role in the partnership. President and CEO John Cooper will be lead VCB person for the project. While at the Bellingham Whatcom County Convention and Visitors Bureau he worked on the Scenic Corridor Management Plans for the Mt. Baker Scenic Byway (SR 542) and Chuckanut Drive (SR 11).