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The Yakima River, a tributary to the Columbia River, runs 214 miles and is the longest river entirely within Washington state. The Yakima River Basin encompasses 6,100 square miles in south-central Washington, totaling 10% of the state. The river flows from the crest of the Cascade Mountains, near Snoqualmie Pass, to its confluence with the Columbia River, near Richland, WA. 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, including producing around 75 percent of the nation’s hops annually. Apples, cherries and pears, wine and juice grapes, hay, beef cattle and dairies are also commonly produced in the Yakima Basin.

The basin is the homeland of the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation and much of the basin includes Yakama Nation reserved or ceded lands. The tribal government of the Yakama Nation is located in Toppenish. There is a diverse economy within the basin, built on agriculture, light manufacturing, education (Central Washington University and Yakima Valley Community College), the Army’s Yakima Training Center, and the Deparment of Energy’s clean-up of the Hanford site. With a population of roughly 300,000, the basin includes part of the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland), Yakima, Ellensburg and many smaller towns.

The US Bureau of Reclamation operates the Yakima Project, which supplies irrigation water to most of the basin’s agriculture, approximately 464,000 acres. 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 holdings include the U.S. Army Yakima Training Center, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and Bureau of Land Management lands. 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 wildlife 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.