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Umtanum Recreation Area, Yakima River Canyon, WA
April 2024


Synopsis
Although we had been to Umtanum Creek many times and it's one of my favorite places in Washington, we had not properly camped in the small campground just on the edge of the Yakima river. We arrived early one Friday afternoon to find the small 6-site campground mostly open. We had our choice and settled into the site surrounded by the green riparian rich area.

During our stay we hiked up toward Umtanum Ridge, the trail that splits south shortly after the railroad tracks. The trail climbs up a shallow side canyon/gully to a nice patch of cottonwoods and apen before climbing uphill to ridge. Signs of the fire that claimed the area in 2020 were evident. Charred trees and lack of sagebrush were obvious. Still the grassy meadows were full of lupine, balsamroot, yellow fleabane, and phlox. Late April was the peak of wildflower season at Umtanum.

We also took the trail along the creek. It was obvious signs of pandemic heavy use and the wildfire impacted how the trail followed the creek. It was easy to follow the wrong trail that did not cross the creek if you didn't know the area. Also further up the canyon, the path had shifted away from the newly emerging aspen, which overtook the old trail. Instead the new trail neandered more towards the middle of the canyon floor. The third and last creek cross disappeared completely. Instead the wrong path took people to a steep canyon wall of loose rock.

Bird life seemed to have returned to the canyon. It was 2 weeks too early for peak migration, but we did see a good mix of winter and early spring migrants. Yellow-rumped Warblers were the most numerous bird - nearly dripping off every shrub and tree along the river. The second most numerous bird were White-crowned Sparrows, which gathered in large flocks. Golden-crowned and Lincoln Sparrows were also moving through the area. And Nashville and Wilson's Warblers and Emp flycatchers were arriving. One early male Lazuli Bunting brightened the area with it's flashy blue head. Up on the canyon wall above the river, we watched a pair of Golden Eagles nesting in the rocky crevices. A Prairie Falcon glided down the canyon. Clouds of Cliff, Tree, and Violet-green Swallows cut through the air against the gray sky. Mixed in with them were Vaux's Swifts.

It was a pleasant early spring trip that satifsied our needs to emerse ourselves in nature and to escape briefly.

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Bird List
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Common Merganser
California Quail
Chukar
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Mourning Dove
Common Poorwill
Vaux's Swift
Rufous Hummingbird
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Golden Eagle
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Lewis's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Prairie Falcon
Hammond's Flycatcher
Gray Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher
Say's Phoebe
Warbling Vireo
Steller's Jay
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Bushtit
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Brown Creeper
Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
House Wren
Pacific Wren
Bewick's Wren
European Starling
Mountain Bluebird
Varied Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Lazuli Bunting
Fox Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Western Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Critters:
Mule deer
Yellow-bellied Marmot
California ground squirrel
Notable blooms:
Arrowleaf balsamroot
Ball-head waterleaf
Bitterbrush
Bugloss fiddleneck
Oregon grape
Collins' rockcress
Cusick's rockcress
Columbian paccoon
Desert yellow fleabane
Fernleaf biscuitroot
Foothill death camas
Gold star
Golden current
Hooker's balsamroot
Lambstongue ragwort
Large-flower tritelesia
Blue-eyed Mary
Miner's lettuce
Narrowleaf goldenweed
Nineleaf biscuitroot
Pioneer violet
Pungent desert Parsley
Sagebrush buttercup
Sagebrush false dandelion
Showy phlox
Sicklepod rockcress
Small bluebells
Small-flowered woodland star
Spreading stickseed
Starry Solomon's seal
Sticky purple geranium
Thompson's Indian paintbrush
Upland larkspur
Wax currant
Western serviceberry


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