Umtanum Creek, Yakima River Canyon
We’ve hiked on this trail before during the day, so we thought it would be good to get a more intimate look at Umtanum Creek. I was originally worried that the wildlife activity and flowers would have died down by mid-June, but I was delightfully mistaken. The birds were still very active in attracting mates, calling and nest building. There were still wildflowers, though perhaps not as many as in April or May. Besides enjoying the warmer weather in June, we also got to enjoy the wildlife that goes with warmer weather reptiles.
We only had to hike in 1.5-2 miles to get away from the other backpacker (yes, just one) and the day hikers. The best part of the creek was watching the Bighorn Sheep on the rocks above. They were very aware of us, but didn’t have much to fear since we were far on the floor below. We saw several different groups of all sizes, ages, and numbers. We even spotted a small lamb, probably less than a week old. We watched one group chase and headbutt each other for practice. However, we didn’t see any large rams. Since breeding season was over, I assume most of the groups we saw were composed of females with their young. Over the three days we spend there, we saw approximately 25 sheep, though we couldn’t be sure if some of the groups we saw were the same ones.
We returned to the canyon in early November to see if we could be lucky enough to see the sheep during the rut. We found a small group of sheep (two ewes and last year's young) along with one watchful male. We saw the male check out the females, who weren't apparently ready. We didn't see any clashing of males; this might be because the population of males and sheep isn't very high. Still it was very cool to see an impressive male.
Bird life at Umtanum Creek was enjoyable as well. Lewis’ woodpeckers were very active in seeking mates. We watched one call loudly while perched on his snag. After awhile he would fly in a loop to land in the same spot and start the routine over again. On the rocks above our tent site, a raven family loudly kawed two fledglings were learning the ropes on flying. Also nearby our tent, a House Wren persistently sang during most of the day. In the fall bird life dropped off dramatically. There were a few peeps from juncos and chickadees along the sagebrush and aspens, but not a lot of activity. We did find a single Townsend's Solitare singing from the tops of the shrubs and a couple of Hermit's Thrushes quitely flitting around.
We've hiked up the trail as far as we could. The trail continues up the creek for 4-5 miles, and then it peters out among a steep rocky slope. It’s a beautiful creek, teeming with flora and fauna that’s not hard to find during the spring and early summer months.
Great Blue Heron
American White Pelican - 13 overhead
American Kestrel - 1
Western Screech Owl
Western Wood Pewee - 1 seen lining its nest with fluff
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee - feeding nestlings
American Robin - building a nest
Other Critter List
Southern Alligator Lizard
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Western Gray Squirrel
Ground Squirrel -
California Big Horned Sheep
Directions: South of I-90 on Hwy-821 (Canyon Road).
Required permit: Annual Interagency Passport or self-register fee at the parking lot