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Umtanum Creek, Yakima River Canyon, WA


    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.



Umtanum Creek
Big Horned Sheep
Prickly Pear
Western Rattlesnake
Umtanum Creek during the fall
Umtanum Creek
Ram checking out a female,
Umtanum Creek
Ram keeping an eye out,
Umtanum Creek

Bird List

Great Blue Heron
American White Pelican - 13 overhead
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
American Kestrel - 1
Prairie Falcon
Turkey Vulture
California Quail
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Western Screech Owl
Common Nighthawk
Common Poorwill
Vaux's Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker
Lewis' Woodpecker
Say's Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Western Wood Pewee - 1 seen lining its nest with fluff
Pacific-sloped Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Steller's Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Cliff Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee - feeding nestlings
Bewick's Wren
Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
House Wren
Townsend's Solitare
American Robin - building a nest
Hermit Thrush
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Dark-eyed Junco
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock's Oriole
House Finch
Evening Grosbeak
American Goldfinch

Other Critter List

Southern Alligator Lizard
Garter Snake
King Snake
Gopher Snake
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Western Gray Squirrel
Ground Squirrel -
Bat sp.
River Otter
Mule Deer
California Big Horned Sheep



Located: Yakima River Canyon managed by the BLM, LT Murray State Wildlife Recreation Area
Directions: South of I-90 on Hwy-821 (Canyon Road).
Required permit: Annual Interagency Passport or self-register fee at the parking lot
Washington DRG Map: Yakima – Wyner, The Cottonwoods, Ellensburg South, Manastash Creek


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page updated: 3/18/08