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Floating The Yakima River

Updated on September 29, 2014

Fishing on the Yakima

If you enjoy fishing, you might want to bring your pole along and try your hand at catching some Rainbow Trout.

Floating the Yakima river is a popular way to spend a summer weekend. Ellensburg is the closest city to the start of the trip and is a 2 hour drive from Seattle. The Yakima moves fast and can be floated with an inexpensive inflatable raft, or a canoe. We used the Challenger raft displayed on this hub, but we recommend buying paddles, which are not included. Also, the Challenger can only fit 2 adults, not 4 as claimed. For a more comfortable and spacious ride, try the Fish Hunter, which does come with paddles.

Where to put in

Although there is a boat launch at the KOA in Ellensburg, only boats with frames are allowed to put in there, and even then it is not recommended due to obstructions in the water from the KOA to Ringer. The best put in site is Ringer Loop Rd, off Canyon Rd, and you need a fishing permit to park there. Fishing Licenses/ Parking Permits are available at the Fred Meyer in Ellensburg, among other places. If you are willing to carry your water craft to the river, you can park on the road just outside for free.

UPDATE Aug 2009: See the comment below, apparently it may not be safe to put in at Ringer Road.

Where to take out

Here is a good map of the Yakima from Red's website with places to take out marked. A good place is The Slab. Count on going about 3 miles per hour while on the river.


The Smiley Face is a cliff along the river that is a popular place to stop and jump off a cliff. Currents can be tricky so only jump if you are a confident swimmer.


The hills on the right side of the river, early on, are known as the Rattlesnake Hills and rattlesnakes can often be heard. Obviously, not a good place to take off for a hike.

Yakima River Photos

Nice view down the river near the Ringer Road put in
Nice view down the river near the Ringer Road put in
You should be able to raft together with your friends and just drift.  Just pay attention that you don't drift too close to the bank.
You should be able to raft together with your friends and just drift. Just pay attention that you don't drift too close to the bank.


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      Amber Wilson 3 years ago

      We have floated this many times in Intex tubes, key things are to assure that you are able to keep all or most of your parts out of the water if you want to. Intex are usually large enough to do the trick, while smaller tubes that have your hiney in the water usually leave you pretty cold!! We have also used a small boat... and twice also ventured with a giant blow up turtle (it was funny, but hard to get on and maneuver).

      Bring a FRISBEE to help you paddle, you should be able to stuff it under your butt easily with the right tube, or drill a small hole and tie it to your tube for use when you need.

      There is a sign (small, white, and in the brush) on the right hand side of the river just before Roza. Unless you know what to look for, it may be hard to find. If you want, when dropping off your car go up one stop and tie something to a tree (be sure to pick it up later) so you'll have a landmark of when to prep yourself for take out. Otherwise, you should see other people along the beach at the take out. Keep to the right around the bend, where it's more shallow so you can walk in if needed.

      Bring water shoes for your walk out, not flip flops or other unsturdy shoes.

      I would highly recommend a life jacket for experienced swimmers. Last year we were in the river and they were searching for the body of a woman from the day before... apparently there was lots of alcohol involved and she hit her head and was unable to be fished from the water. :(

      Do NOT get out of your tube in rapids or anywhere until you get to your exit point, and you should be just fine. We usually stop at one of the cliffs and cliff jump. They are pretty clearly indicated by height, one on the right and and one on the left later in the float.

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      sahlicat 5 years ago

      We are planning a tubing trip Aug 25 and I have a Intex River Run I tube that we use in the Columbia. Is that going to work on the Yakima River if we put in at Ringer? I have floated the river before and it is a great float but we used rafts. Do you need a paddle for a tube? And the most important thing I think is to wear your life jacket. Is it best to get out at Rosa or The Slab?


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      kessel 6 years ago

      we just went yesterday and tubed from Umtanum to Roza. we used "let's go tubing" since it was our first time. They are fine, but way overbooked and not enough shuttles to pick up people at the end. We wouldn't use them again. Also, there are no signs or any indication you are getting close to Roza beach where you have to get out. We were so lucky a boater was there to throw a line out to us and help pull us in. The water was moving fast enough and if you're not on the left side you can be too far away to get over in time. But those things aside, a very fun leisurely, safe trip - we'll be doing it again.

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      SarahS 6 years ago

      Anyone know how deep the river is in mid-August, or right now? I used to float shallow rivers all the time in MT but haven't floated the Yakima. I'm organizing a float for 8/20/11 with 8+ friends, most of whom are inexperienced on rivers. Sounds like paddles are a must. And anywhere to rent tubes nearby?

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      kayla 6 years ago

      its lot of fun to have water fights and more aint it

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      kayla 6 years ago

      ben their done that lots of fun

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      Patty 7 years ago

      Jeani, you can pick a spot on the right side of the river. The road runs down the left side heading down stream so about a half day flout down the canyon, pick a nice pull off and camp next to the rail road traks. Keeps you away from the road and give you the quit space you need for couple time!

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      Jeani 7 years ago

      Can anyone tell me where to camp with two couples? We want to float the yakima and want a camp ground with some privacy so were not waving to our neighbors or being told to be quiet all the time? There have got to be some great camping spots..right now I only see RV parks and gravel parking lot camp grounds. Please help! Any response is appreciated :).

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      dude 7 years ago

      I would't say this river is THAT fast..def a relaxing easy float. I lived in eburg for 4 years while going to school and floated every chance i got. Bring lots of beer and enjoy...this river is the shit.

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      ATU 7 years ago

      I think the point breenfour is making is this is not just a relaxing float. You have to be on your toes from the start and paddling like crazy to stay away from branches and rocks. If you want a nice relaxing float there are plenty of slower rivers, the Yakima moves fast. Do not tie up to anyone and bring paddles. This is not your slow relaxing beer float. It definitely gets better after the first two miles but be prepared to work.

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      Schmanny 7 years ago

      What time of year is the best to go? We are thinking of either the last weekend in July (30th) or August (28th)?


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      JJ 7 years ago

      Yep I am a local and have never had any problems. Been floating this river for near 12 years now, always putting in at Ringer loop. In fact, about 20 of us went yesterday.

      If you want to be a retard and not bring paddles, then you get what you get. We saw so many intoxicated college kids who were unprepared... floating on the most insane things. Looked like a blast... but funny how none of us came into any problems UNTIL we got to Pacman (formerly smiley) cliff.

      The idiots there were astounding. Now I have seen several cliff jumpers over the past 12 years... but never in this strong of an undercurrent. These kids were totally unprepared. One almost nailed our paddle boat caravan... with mothers and children. Maybe a 12 inch buffer between him and the paddle boat. We got out to swim over to the rocks as we were going to jump as well. I got dragged down into the water by a college boy who couldn't pull out of the under current. Aside from a bruised arm... and one hell of a paddle to shore, we were fine.

      The potential for hazzard there was infinite. I urge all future floaters to use caution... several people a year drown in that river. Please don't think you are super man/woman. Undercurrents are real. When you jump off cliffs... there may be obstructions that are under neath. Use caution and your head. I would hate to hear of another person dying due to carelessness.


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      Dan 7 years ago

      Floated the Yakima River on 7/10/10 from the ringer loop road down to the slab, about a 4-5 hour trip. Ringer loop has a launch if you have a Wa state fishing permit. Otherwise there is another lot close by with river access (the small lot with wood fence) that is about 500’ from the river. We floated a 2 person raft and were equipped with two paddles. I was prepared for the ringer since I had read the warnings on this web site. I did notice some people had got caught in the trees during the first stretch of the ringer area. These people were in tubes and unprepared to navigate. However, if you have any control of your raft or tube (paddles) you will be able to navigate with ease. Once you get through the ringer there are very few obstacles to watch out for. Just stay in the middle of the river. Also be aware that the speed on Canyon Rd. is 45mph and it is strictly enforced. I saw quite a few people had been pulled over including a few undercover officers. Stop at the Palace Café in Ellensburg for some good food afterwards.

      Make sure to bring:

      1. Paddles

      2. Sun Gear: Sunscreen/Hat/Sunglasses

      3. Ample supply of beverages and a way to dispose of the empties properly.

      4. I would also recommend Teva’s or some type of aquatic shoe. You will probably lose regular sandals.

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      Paige&Jesse 7 years ago

      Ive floated the Yakima twice and am heading out for our third float next week.Both times were an absolute blast. We launched at Ringer both times with no problems. Although buy the stupid permit or you'll find yourselves walking a long way and getting a parking ticket to boot. Oh and River junkie buy a coleman waterproof case for dry stoges.

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      River Junkie 7 years ago

      Fellow river junkies: the yak is the shit. ive seen several people go under the trees after putting in at ringer... the vast majority were idiots that had a beer in their hand and just plopped their ass in their tube and let themselves drift straight for them.....I get in at this spot several times a year and have had no problems. Just pay attention, learn to paddle, and somehow keep your smokes dry and you'll have a good float.

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      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Looks like a beautiful place to enjoy some leisure time. Thanks!

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      breenfour 8 years ago

      Regarding best place to put in, I CAN'T STRESS ENOUGH PUTTING IN AT RINGER ROAD IS VERY DANGEROUS this time of year. Me and two other floaters put in here yesterday and within 5 minutes were immediately in very serious trouble. We got rammed up against and then caught up in the low hanging trees and river debris along the river's edge. Unless you have the strength to manuever your craft (tube or raft)in to the middle of the river the instant you put in you will definetely get swept in to the fast current along the edge of the river where you will be forced directly in to fallen trees, branches and river debris. In effect, this bunch of caught up branches,tree trunks and old river tubes acts like a damm. The force of the dammed up current will drag you under water, it's that strong. We got help from the sherrif (thank you thank you) and a citizen (Barry, thank you!). The sherrif and the citizen told us that Ringer Road through about 2 miles down river is the most dangerous area on the entire river to put in, period. The local Sherriff and citizen know how dangerous this area of the river is but you won't find public notices posted about the danger of the Ringer Road plus two miles put in. We are three physically healthy, strong people and we nearly didn't make it. If you think you can beat this river, you are wrong, heed this warning.

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      Brian 8 years ago

      I just tried to buy a permit to park at the WDFW site off Ringer Road and the clerk required not only drivers license info but my SSN !!! I refused, and hope I can indeed park just outside the site. I also sent a letter of complaint to the director of the WDFW and suggest other do the same --- SSN is so common in identify theft, and who knows how secure is the database that the clerk in the local store is entering it? I don't give that to get a snow-park permit or a NW forest pass (and never mind the question of just how many different permits a person must buy to enjoy the outdoors ...).

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      Ed 8 years ago

      No Cam - The Rosa dam prevents floats downriver

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      Cam 8 years ago

      Can you keep going past the Slab (all the way into Selah & Yakima)?

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      Bev 8 years ago

      We are floating the river in Aug. Need to know best place to put in and take out. thanks

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      Rob 8 years ago

      I am planning on floating this weekend, my only concern is how do we know when we reach "The Slab" to get out? And not keep on floating passed our cars? anything will help, thank you

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      Jay Egghs 8 years ago

      Does anyone know of an official site to determine the conditions on the Yakima River before I go? I want to check out special problems such as snags and river flow so I don't run into trouble.

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      fireweed221 8 years ago

      I floated this 2 years ago with friends and had a blast! I am going there to do it again this summer~

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      river rats 9 years ago

      we float the river every year. last year we were on the oasis island with a bbq floating behind on one of those dirty black tubes. the big pines sure have changed alot but we still had a good time. ringer to the yeah

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      flyingeagle 9 years ago

      Hi Mausmi,

      I love your photos. It looks like a beautiful area, and very serene. Relaxing just to view and read your article. Thank you.


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      Kaylene 10 years ago

      I floated this river a few weeks ago and what fun we had. I'm not brave in the water but it's basically quite calm. Nice, relaxing fun summer thing to do, especially if you have someone nice to float for four hours with!

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      Dale 10 years ago

      Nice info...the lower canyon route that you are suggesting can be quite busy in the summer. I recommend parking at the confluence of the Teanaway River near Cle Elum and floating down to

      to the Thorp Diversion Dam. Takes about 3 hours. Parking is free and the water is clearer than the canyon stretch.

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      Kevin LaBerge 10 years ago

      Brings back some very fond memories! Thank you for capturing a small piece of the great life of the Yakima Valley.

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      Shoshana 11 years ago from Seattle

      Gorgeous pictures, and very informative article. You are a good travel writer -- your writing is clear and concise, easy to understand and gives the reader what he or she needs to know to make the Yakima rafting excursion pleasant and doable. I hope you are considering a career as a travel writer.

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      aaaliaonline 11 years ago

      beautiful pics.nice place.

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      Ralph Deeds 11 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Looks like fun!