Yakama Nation Wildlife Images
Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation Wildlife, Range & Vegetation Resources Management Program

Wapato Wildlife Area

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SWA arial photo

Wapato Property Background

The Wapato Wildlife Recreation Area was included into the Wetlands and Riparian restoration project in 1994.  Prior to its acquisition the property was used for small farm specialty vegetable crops by truck farmers but it has remained idle for the last few years.  Livestock grazing and crop production were the main uses of the property.  Hunting has also remained a primary use of the property and will benefit from the recommended restoration activities. 

Restoration and Management Goals

Restoration Goals:  In 1994, initial restoration goals were developed for this property.  The following goals are an update of these original goals. 

  • Re-establishment of the Yakima River side channels on the property in such a manner that natural flows are allowed to return through the property. 
  • Restoration of the floodplain landscape as close as possible to a pre-irrigation condition.  This includes reestablishing natural land contours and hydrologic conditions necessary for wetland, riparian and upland restoration.
  • Restoration of native vegetation communities associated with the floodplain landscape.
  • Manage lands to provide benefits to wetland and riparian associated wildlife.  This includes the reestablishment of reproduction habitat for waterfowl, upland game birds, wetland and riparian dependent songbirds, and furbearers.  This also includes feeding, migration, and wintering habitat for herons, bald eagles, waterfowl, raptors, songbirds, and other wetland and riparian associated species. 
  • Manage lands to provide benefits to anadromous fish.  This includes the restoration of riparian tree and shrub communities to shade the creek and to provide woody debris for juvenile hiding cover.  Provide flow management in wetlands to allow passage of adult and juvenile salmonids.  Special emphasis is also given to spawning coho salmon in the side channels and spawning fall chinook salmon in the main river channel.
  • Restore culturally important vegetation for traditional use by the Yakama People.  This includes a variety of riparian shrubs such as elder and currant, and great basin wild rye.
  • Provide access for traditional resource utilization for Yakama enrolled members.  Provide supervised access for the non-enrolled public for the purposes of small game hunting, non-consumptive wildlife activities, and educational purposes.  Control the extensive amount of garbage dumping that occurred previous to property inclusion into the Wetlands and Riparian Restoration project.

Restoration Actions:

  • Side channel reconnection:  Side channel flow has been allowed to occur as the Yakima River levels dictate.  Beaver dam construction is now prevalent in the channels, slowing the flows and allowing them to enter the hyporheic zone.  In 1997, a small wetland area was constructed on an area previously converted to agriculture. 
  • Landscape restoration:  In addition to the side channel reconnection, areas leveled for agricultural development have been restored, as well as possible, to pre-irrigation landscape conditions.  These included channel, wetland and upland area recreations subject to current landscape constraints.
  • Native vegetation restoration:  Because the Yakima River corridor still contains a source of native wetland and riparian plant seed, most of the revegetation of these areas is being allowed to occur naturally.  Willow and cottonwood forests now dominate previously disturbed areas that were composed mainly of cheat grass and prickly pear cactus.  The exceptions to the natural revegetation are the areas that were converted to agriculture.  These upland areas were replanted to Great Basin wild rye, Indian rice grass and Sandberg’s blue grass.  Figure __ shows details of the grass restoration areas.  Weed control activities were necessary during initial revegetation.  Now that the native vegetation has become established, little weed control is required in these areas due to the competitiveness of the native plant communities.  Weed control activities are discussed in the Operation and Maintenance portion of the plan.
  • Wildlife management:  The actions described above also benefit the wildlife resources of the property.  In addition the benefits derived from hydrologic and habitat restoration, conditions favorable to wildlife will be maintained through strict control of human access into the property.  Because a major portion of the Yakama Nation’s Wetland and Riparian Restoration Project is devoted to the restoration of native plant and hydrologic conditions (habitat), artificial nesting structures will only be used under very special circumstances.  There are currently no plans to utilize them in any matter on this property.
  • Anadromous fish management:  As with wildlife, the anadromous fish goals are tied in to the restoration of the hydrologic and vegetative conditions.  Restoration of native hydrologic conditions provides for safe passage by adult and juvenile salmonids.  Because this property lies within an important groundwater recharge zone of the Yakima River, wetland and floodplain reconnection allows for the natural recharging of groundwater necessary for maintaining the quantity and quality of water necessary for salmonid needs downstream.  Protection of the coho and fall chinook spawning areas is a priority.  Protection of the coho juvenile summer rearing habitat is also a priority.
  • Cultural resource restoration:  Natural revegetation has allowed for a large increase in riparian and wetland plants important to the Yakama People.  Once again, this is due to the efforts of restoring the native hydrologic and landscape components of the property.  Native grass stands, nearly non-existent when the property was farmed, are now common enough to provide harvest opportunities each year to tribal members. The riparian areas provide opportunities for the harvest of currant, willow, dogwood and wild rose.  Wildlife resource use by enrolled Yakamas is occurring in the form of deer harvest.  This property is also popular by the non-Yakama public hunters for upland game birds and waterfowl.
  • Access for resource utilization:  Fences and gates have been installed on the property to restrict the accessibility of the property.  Two parking areas at the perimeter of the property provide access for public hunting.

Coho salmon   wapato wildlife area

Picture 1- Female Coho Salmon Spawning on the Wapato Wildlife Area

Picture2- Wapato Wildlife Area flooded wetland

Wapato wildlife area   

Picture 1- Cover map of habitat types on the Wapato Wildlife Area

Picture 2- Native grass restoration areas