A Guide to Floating the Yakima River

Attracting many kids and adults with its refreshing and smooth water, floating the Yakima River on a hot summer day is a great activity to add to your itinerary between the months of June and September. Grab your friends and family and we will help you with the rest. With this easy to follow guide, we will help make this the best experience possible.

yakima river float
floating yakima river

Choose Your Adventure

To start, there are many launch and takeout points throughout the Yakima Canyon. This makes it easy for people to customize their floating experience. Traveling South on State Route 821 from Ellensburg to Yakima, you can choose where you want to start and stop based on how long you want to float. 

Staying for a good time, not a long time: For a short 1-hour ride on the Yakima River Canyon, start at Big Horn Campground and end at Umtanum Recreation Site (5.5 miles). Keep in mind, Big Horn Campground may charge you to use their boat launch. 

Not ready to get out: For a couple of extra hours, get out at Lmuma Creek Recreation Site (9.3 miles). 

In for the long haul: Finally made it to the end. Get out at the last stop, the Roza Recreation Site (14.4 miles). All non-motorized boats and floats must get out before the Roza Diversion Dam. 

Come Prepared

One of the best things about the Yakima River is how calm the river flows. You may need an oar to push yourself out of the bushes on the sides, but other than that kick back, relax and enjoy the sunshine. Many people bring lunch and refreshments with them during the longer floats. Just remember once you pack it in, pack it out. 

If you are in need of supplies for your trip, stop by Red’s Fly Shop or Outdoor Pursuits and Rentals for a tube or river raft rental. Or if you would like to purchase your own gear to use every year, tubes can be purchased at any store that may sell outdoor equipment. 

Other items you should prepare to bring are a tube pump, oar, life jackets, wet bag, cooler, sunscreen, water sandals, sunglasses, swimsuit and towels. Check out Mountain High Sports in Ellensburg or Basecamp Outfitters in Cle Elum for all your outdoor equipment needs local to the Kittitas County area. 


One thing to keep in mind, if you plan to self-guide your floating experience in the Yakima River Canyon, you will need two cars. One at the start of your float and one at the end of your float, in order to get back to your other vehicle once you make it to the end. Keep the items you plan to use for the float in the car at the launch point and items like your towel in the car at the takeout point.

If that seems too complicated or you do not have access to two cars, many people often do guided tours or use a vehicle shuttle service. Rill Adventures, Yakima River Tubing and Alpine Adventures all provide guided tours and vehicle shuttle services. It may cost a little more, but guided tours and vehicle shuttle services are more convenient and a perfect option for people who have never floated on the Yakima River before. 

Pro tip: You will need a Discover Pass to park at many of the Yakima Canyon River Campgrounds and Recreation Sites. Many of them also ask you to pay a $5 day fee per car, so bring a little cash. This money goes towards helping keep the recreation sites in Yakima River Canyon clean and maintained.

Nearby Food and Drinks

Along with the Yakima River Canyon, you will also find the Ellensburg Canyon Winery (ECW) and the Canyon River Grill. At the Ellensburg Canyon Winery, you will find yourself looking out at the Yakima Canyon, sipping locally-made wine from ECW’s sustainably farmed vineyard. ECW also encourages you to pack a picnic to enjoy with your tastings.

At the Canyon River Grill, you will find delicious food and drinks such as the Crispy Alaskan LingCod Fish & Chips or the Zane & Wylie’s Steak Salad. Enjoy your food and drinks while dining right on the Yakima River Canyon. You can also make a reservation and enjoy the beautiful views at these two highly recommended stops in the Yakima River Canyon

If you are looking for more activities nearby to fill up the weekend, take a look at what else Ellensburg has to offer for those living in or visiting the area by reading Spending a Weekend in Ellensburg.

Photos: Rill Adventures, Emily Masseth.

Avatar photo

Emily Masseth

Emily Masseth graduated from Central Washington University in 2019. She is originally from Rochester, Washington, but decided to continue living in Ellensburg after graduation because she loved the area so much. When Emily is not writing, she is the Communications Manager for the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce. Emily is a Washington State native and it shows in how much coffee she drinks, how much she loves local wine tastings, and how much she loves being outside. Catch Emily on her next adventure by following @emilymasseth on Instagram.


  1. […] Mountain Range off Interstate 90, Ellensburg offers outdoor recreation like biking, fishing on the Yakima River, hiking and more. The charming city is home to around 20,000 people, and is located in Kittitas […]

  2. Avatar photo Episode 47: Madison Ford - Explore Washington State on November 12, 2021 at 3:02 am

    […] want to get out on the water? Enjoy the Columbia River at Vantage.  Are you a bird watcher?  The Yakima River Canyon is one of the best places in the United States to watch birds. During our conversation […]

  3. […] area, with its hot & cool desert climate, provides. Combined with adequate irrigation from the Yakima River, these little green flowers have room to flourish. This is the unique reason why the Yakima Valley […]

  4. […] you are looking for a fun and easy day of paddling, the Yakima River may be the best fit for you. If you have multiple people and vehicles equipped to carry kayaks, you […]

  5. […] was Clark’s first impression of the area of Richland once he canoed up the Columbia to the Yakima River, thus making him the first explorer to enter the area. He wrote, “Rivers filled with […]

  6. […] alongside the Yakima River, the Chamna Natural Preserve is home to coyote, porcupine, jackrabbits, river otter, raccoons and […]

  7. […] you know that your Friday night IPA is likely made from juicy hops grown in Yakima, Washington? Or even the apple on your counter, and the sprig of mint in your salad? I’d say […]

  8. […] the water. Rent rafts at Red’s Fly Shop (also located at Canyon River Ranch) for a leisurely river float excursion. Or bring your own […]

  9. […] on the time of year you visit Yakima, you’ll be able to float down the Yakima River. If you head north, you can do some white water rafting in Rimrock, just a few miles away from […]

  10. […] Winery provides a picturesque view as it’s located just off Canyon Road at the entrance to the Yakima River Canyon. Owners Gary and Susan Cox chose a grape vine quilt block to commemorate the five acres of […]

  11. […] you around! Lastly, there are great fly fishing opportunities here as well, especially along the Yakima River and at the alpine lakes and streams in the nearby Cascade […]

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.