Outdoor enthusiasts can delight at the robust variety of wildlife in Central Washington. The Yakima Canyon southeast of Ellensburg, in different seasons, can provide dramatic views of eagles, hawks and other raptors, a variety of birds nesting in the canyon walls, big horn sheep, deer, elk, coyotes and smaller mammals.

Wildlife viewing is also possible on designated state-owned wildlife areas in the Colockum, L.T. Murray, Quilomene, Whisky Dick and Wenas areas.

Begun in 1997 and sponsored by the Yakama Tribe the goal of the Cle Elum Supplementation and Research Facility is to boost the production of wild fish through supplementation techniques and to evaluate the program’s long-term success; and to educate people. At the facility guests learn about the work being done and how they can contribute to the success of the salmon runs in the Northwest. Visitors may walk through the facility on a self-guided tour or arrange to participate in an educational tour with the summer’s hatchery hosts. 
From Ellensburg head west on I-90 and take Exit 84 (Cle Elum).  Turn left on 1st Ave in Cle Elum. Next turn left on So. Cle Elum Rd and then right on Charter Rd (before the bridge).  In less then a mile turn left on Spring Chinook Way.  The main office to the Cle Elum Fish Hatchery will be at the end of the road. 

The 91,603-acre Colockum Wildlife Area is located about 15 miles south of the city of Wenatchee, in Kittitas and Chelan counties. Managed as one unit, WDFW owns 46,019 acres, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) owns 34,561acres interspersed in checkerboard fashion, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) owns 11,023 acres managed by WDFW through a Memorandum of Understanding. The Colockum is contiguous to the south with the Quilomene unit of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area. Elevations range from 480 feet to 6,875 feet, with steep, rocky slopes and a rolling series of ridges and canyons that generally drain west to east.

Acquisition of the Colockum began in the mid-1950s using federal Pittman-Robertson funds to expand winter range for deer and elk herds and to perpetuate and improve upland game bird habitat.

The 54,070-acre L.T. Murray unit is about 15 miles west of Ellensburg. WDFW owns 39,305 acres, DNR owns 14,424 acres currently either leased to WDFW or under WDFW management and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) owns 341 acres in the Taneum drainage. Lying in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, the eastern end receives less than 16 inches of precipitation, but the westside gets up to 100 inches of snow. Elevations range from 2,000 to near 4,500 feet. The L.T. Murray extends in a band about 11 miles wide from south of Cle Elum to the top of Manastash Ridge. The lower portions of two major drainages, Taneum Canyon on the north and Manastash Canyon on the south, are within the unit. The streams in these canyons flow west to east and empty into the Yakima River. Numerous smaller perennial and intermittent stream channels feed these two major drainages. The timbered portions of the L.T. Murray form the upper watersheds that culminate in Taneum and Manastash Canyons, and the agricultural lands of the eastern Kittitas Valley.

Leah Polacek Butterfly Garden

Established in 2006 and located on the Central Washington University campus, the Butterfly Garden serves as a unique and educational sanctuary for butterflies and as a place of reflection. There is also an interpretive walk illustrating the life cycle of the butterfly with plants and trees that are native to Kittitas Valley and Central Washington. The garden, located next to Mitchell Hall, is dedicated to Leah Kinney Polacek, a 1995 CWU graduate and teacher.

Ellensburg, WA 98926

The Naneum Ridge State Forest is 71,000-acres and has good accessibility hunting for both elk and deer on or around Table Mountain. The Naneum Basin/Canyon will holds a variety of animals for viewing as well. If there is early snowfall, the deer and elk will migrate downward and will be found mostly on the south facing slopes of Cooke Canyon and Coleman Canyon.  Coleman creek provides a great access point, but it may be crowded with hunters during Elk Season.
Quilomene Wildlife Area spans “the breaks” between the Columbia River and pine-dotted eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains, an area of shrub-steppe ridges and numerous wild creek valleys. The Quilomene area is located north of Vantage, south of Wenatchee and east of Ellensburg. It has a network of primative roads suitable for four-wheel drives or alternative transportation such as mountain bikes, horses, or foot travel. Quilomene offers a habitat for a variety of wildlife including Rocky Mountain elk, California bighorn sheep, mule deer, and coyote. The main goal of this area is to provide living space for these animals, but many activities are available in the area. 
 (Feed is generally put out at 8:00 a.m., but elk are visible throughout the day). The landscape rises from sagebrush steppe hillsides to dense stands of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir and is home to a large elk herd, mule deer, bear, spotted owls, northern goshawk, golden eagles, pileated woodpeckers, salmon, migratory and local birds, beaver, and other small mammals. Take the Thorp Exit from Interstate 90 (exit 101); Turn left on the Thorp Highway, cross over I-90 and proceed about 3/4 mile to Thorp Cemetery road and turn right (one mile south of the exit); travel west for 2.5 miles and turn left on Watt Canyon Road. During the winter, the elk feeding site is located one mile past the turn. Parking is available at the site. The gates at Robinson and Joe Watt Canyon are closed to all public use from late November-early December each year and re-open on May 1st.

Yakima River Canyon just south of Ellensburg

Wenas Wildlife Area offers creek hikes and big views of rolling ridges and the Yakima River Canyon just south of Ellensburg. This wildlife reserve includes several types of habitat from semi-arid shrub-steppe and grassland to pine forest. The boundary between shrub-steppe and pine woods supports a rich variety of bird life and gives the area an outstanding reputation for bird watching.

Wenas Wildlife Area supports a significant population of California big sheep, and also Rocky mountain elk and mule deer. The area is used heavily as a stopover by migratory birds during springtime, and supports many resident bird species year round. During winter, bald eagles are common residents in the Yakima Canyon and tributary canyons. Rattlesnakes are relatively common during late spring and summer at lower elevations.

The 17,803-acre Quilomene unit and 28,549-acre Whiskey Dick unit, located about 15 miles northeast of Ellensburg, are now connected by WDFW’s recent acquisition of 5,441 acres of the Skookumchuck drainage. The contiguous total of 51,793 acres (of which WDFW owns 11,523 on Quilomene and 17,027 on Whiskey Dick, with the balance in DNR acres) is managed together. The first purchase was made in 1962 with state Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation funds to expand winter range for deer and elk herds and to perpetuate and improve upland game bird habitat.

The units range in elevation from 550 feet above sea level at the Columbia River on the east, to 3,200 feet in the northwest corner (a distance of some 10 miles).

The northernmost Quilomene unit is bordered on the north by the Colockum Wildlife Area. The Quilomene Creek basin lies in the dry, shrub-steppe habitat along the Columbia River northeast of Ellensburg. The similar Whiskey Dick Creek basin lies south of the Quilomene. Flows remain fairly constant due to the springs scattered throughout the drainage. Quilomene Creek, Whiskey Dick Creek, and some of their tributaries provide habitat for resident trout.

Home to the Bureau of Land Management’s largest holding in the state, this is a must-see destination for the consummate birder, wildlife watcher, fly fisherman or photographer. Canyon Road features stately basalt cliffs that rise dramatically above the meandering Yakima River, where rafters, inner tubers and fly fishermen somehow find a way to coexist.

Rangeland and ranches lie to the east. To the west is the sprawling Wenas Wildlife Area, where springtime flowers bloom in brilliant yellow, purple and orange and wildlife viewing is accessible all season from a trailhead that crosses the river and leads up to the canyon ridge.