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Yakima River Canyon Floater's Guide

We want to make floating the Yakima River Canyon a fun, easy, and stress free adventure.  In addition to a very professional Yakima River Shuttle Service, we also have a couple of great maps that you will find useful.

Free Download of a Yakima River Canyon Floater's Map and Mileage Chart

We have a convenient floater's map of the Yakima River Canyon that you can download as a .PDF!












The Safest Section of the Yakima River


The Yakima River Canyon is considered the safest section of the Yakima River to float. While there are still some hazards, primarily found along the shoreline, it's considered Class 1 water which is the easiest classification to navigate. The Canyon section starts at around Mile Marker 22, the Bighorn Campground.

Planning to DIY Float in a Kayak, Raft, or SUP?

When getting ready to head out on your next paddling trip, be sure to keep these safety tips in mind to ensure you have an enjoyable time on the water.

  1. Stay away from the shorelines.  This is the #1 mistake, hazard, and problem for floaters in the Yakima Canyon.  There are very few mid-river obstacles but the shoreline has MANY hazards. Unless you are pulling out, stay off the shoreline.
  2. Know your float.  Figure out the halfway point to keep track of time.  Don't overthink it and pick a dozen landmarks you will just confused. Watch the time and pick one landmark at least half way through the float to help keep track of time. 
  3. Wear Your Lifejacket.  - Expect to capsize and swim occasionally when paddling a canoe, kayak, SUP or raft.  Learn more about PFDs and how they might just save your life.
  4. Cold Water Safety - Cold water is extremely dangerous! Learn more about protecting yourself in this environment and use extra caution in cold water.
  5. Rules of the Road - Paddlers should always yield to the "wide side" of anglers not passing between them and the shoreline.
  6. Safety/Gear Check - Safety tips you need to consider the next time you head out on the water.  Make sure your craft holds air, is sturdy,, you have a safety whistle, and an extra paddle or two.  

Planing to Float and Fish in Drift Boat, Raft, or Single Person Boat?

Here are some tips that we have regarding float fishing and a document that we give our boat renters at Red's. Fisherman may find it handy for the Yakima River Canyon.


Seasons for Floating the Yakima River Canyon

June - August - Peak season for floating and enjoying the heat and some splashing around.  River flows are high and swift, averaging about 4,000 cfs. Saturdays in July and August are nuts from 1 pm - 5 pm.  CRAZY busy if temps hit 100 degrees plus.  If you want a quiet float, go in the morning and enjoy the wildlife, quiet, and get off the river by 2 pm.

September - Very good time to float. River flows are down to about 2,000 cfs and the water is usually still warm enough for a dip.  

October - November - Some warm days but cold water, so be prepared with waders, wetsuits, or just some cold feet.  This is a GREAT time watch for Bighorn Sheep!  It is breeding season and you may get to see them butt heads.  Quite a thrill. Later in the month migratory Bald Eagles arrive.  River flows are very low this time of year. About 1,000 cfs so floats should be short. 

December - February - A short winter float is good fun in boats that keep you dry.  Hypothermia will be an issue for anyone that gets wet so use EXTREME caution.  Eagles, Deer, Bighorn, Otters, and other wildlife are at a premium!  

March - May - The wildflowers are spectacular in May, and the river is nearly empty in March and April other than a few fisherman. It's a great time to get out here and get some eastern Washington sunshine!  Watch out for high water and look for river flows less than 4,000 cfs.



How Fast Does the River Travel and How Far Should I Float?

Rivers are measured in volume, typically "cubic feet per second".  This is charted online by the USGS and measured just upstream from Red's at a gauging station called Umtanum.  You can find a live feed here.  Yakima River Flows at Umtanum

1,000 CFS = +/- 1 Mile per Hour Floating Speed

This formula is an approximate measure of how fast you will float based on volume. Always check the flow volume before you decide how far to float.  Most floaters enjoy being on the river 2-3 hours of straight floating.  Use this formula to pick out a float accordingly.


How Do I Get My Car to the Takeout?

Ok, so you have the perfect float planned!  Now time to consider vehicle arrangements.   While you can certainly use multiple cars and drop one at the takeout, most find it much more convenient to use our rental raft services which include all shuttling, OR use our vehicle shuttle service to valet your vehicle while you are on the river floating.