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Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center Educational Master Plan

After the passage of Senate Bill 424, the Yakima River Canyon along State Route 821 became Washington’s first scenic corridor. A corridor management plan was developed in the late 1960s to maximize the Canyon’s aesthetic beauty and recreational potential, but progress was stalled until 2010 and the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway Initiative (YRCSBI).


Since 2010, there has been an awakening of the original 1968 corridor management plan through reprioritization of plan goals by the Kittitas Environmental Education Network (KEEN).


An open conversation with the local public in both Yakima and Kittitas Counties and area stakeholders to identify the vision for the canyon helped to shape the YRCSBI. Initiative goals include improvements to visitor experience, improvements to tourism, protection of resources, and sustainable facilities for visitors of the byway.


At the end of October, 2010, twenty-six federal, state, and local agencies, conservation groups, clubs, local business partners and private landowners signed a Memorandum of Understanding, establishing a collective dedicated to designing, implementing and promoting the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway. The Memorandum of Understanding was updated and re-signed in the spring of 2016 with additional partners coming on board, and with a focus on plan implementation.

In 2008, KEEN began planning for the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway Natural History Center (now renamed as the Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center) bringing together community members and supporters to outline goals, purpose and timelines for the Center. The project has gone through several iterations and is now seeing renewed focus on zero energy and zero carbon design with a new architectural team and a strong fundraising plan.


The purpose of the Center has always been to welcome visitors to the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway, provide interpretation of the surrounding habitat and ecosystems of the Canyon, and to provide a sense of place for our community within the broader regional context of the Pacific Northwest.

The interpretive plan described here includes the goals and desired outcomes for a visitor experience in and around the Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center (YCIC) and the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway. It also includes themes and a prescription of interpretive strategies for communicating these themes to achieve the desired outcomes.


The prescription is meant to guide future exhibits and programming—to provide direction—while accommodations are made to allow for creativity of the designer and budget. The prescription is presented here to reflect the desired visitor experience at the Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center and scenic byway. Because the Interpretive Center is still in the planning phase, many of the design elements and exhibits are presented as strategies to guide and assist in future planning and programming.


While the look and size of many elements have not been prescribed, and trails have not been marked, the themes and goals will be central to the design process. 

The sections included in this plan provide an overview for the visitor experience both on site and along the canyon corridor, and describe roughly the interpretive and informational strategies recommended for each part of the visitor experience. Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center Interpretive Plan

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