Eastern Washington near the water is my favorite type of landscape. It's a hot, windy, and a true desert climate. When you get near a body of water like you do along the Yakima River, the diversity of life expands and makes for great wildlife watching.
Umtanum Recreation Site is part of several BLM campgrounds lumped together along the Yakima River known as the Yakima River Canyon Campgrounds. All can be reserved ahead of time via the reservation.gov website: https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/250985. Standard for most BLM camping in Washington, sites are very basic. Gravel parking, pit toilets, and a picnic table. This place does have a dumpster for trash, not all do. There are no hook ups, no drinking water, and in our case, very little shade. Neighbors are close and there is not a lot of privacy. The day use area is right there too, close to camping and can be loud. It is heavily patrolled by the wonderful BLM folks to keep everything clean and the people orderly. They also give out tickets if you don't mind the warnings for correct passes or day use fees.
The campground itself is one little loop with six sites. The loop is an offshoot of a very large gravel parking area for day use. Mostly boat launching and hiking access to Umtanum Creek and Umtaum Ridge trails. You can check the Information Board for rules on day use and camping fees, passes, and how to check to see if a site is reserved.
We arrived on July 3rd in the afternoon. The campground was very quiet and all the sites were reserved. The morning of July 4th, the recreation site turned into a total madhouse. BLM Rangers, Law Enforcement, making constant rounds to patrol the never ending hoards of people coming to park and float the river. There was a lot of noise, dust, drunk and rowdy folks. Friday was calm again until afternoon, Saturday was not as bad as the 4th but still pretty crazy. It was also hot! No shade to be had in our site. After hiking in the morning, we spent a lot of time across the bridge, in it's shadow, in the river.
If you are using this spot as a base to do some hiking, fishing, or floating it's very convenient. I am sure in Spring and Fall when river floating is not at it's peak, it's gorgeous and peaceful. The raptors and songbirds are splendid. We saw Bighorn sheep on the hill, big rock squirrels, wild turkeys with babies, and fish. No rattlesnakes or ticks, but this is prime territory. Hiking down the Umtanum Creek trail, over the suspension bridge, is one of my favorite hikes ever.
My husband and I don't really ever make our way around the Yakima area, only because the hiking there is more "desert" feel and in the summer the rattlesnakes are out and about. The weather in the Yakima area in the summer is amazing, though (hot!!). We decided to make a day trip to do some hiking in the Umtanum area, which is within the Yakima River Canyon. The path was really good, clear, and easy to find. There were a few waterfalls, and creeks to cross to just know that your shoes/feet might get a little wet. The weather was perfect when we came in July. Make sure if you go in the summertime to bring plenty of water, because it is very hot. We luckily didn't see any rattlesnakes! There really isn't a "view" ending point, but the hike itself is beautiful. After we were done hiking we stopped and had a delicious dinner at Bron Yur (Spelling?), it is a pizza place that makes the most amazing pizza!! Highly recommend going there if you are ever in that area. We drove home by going Highway 12 and saw the most amazing views of Mt. Rainier.
Though you don't need to camp here to enjoy the desert joking across the river, it gives you quick access for any early morning stroll before it heats up. Additionally if you like Flyfishing, the bridge offers you good bank access to cover some water. The campsites are small and packed right, but if you don't mind neighbors, this is a decent site.
There are only a handful of sites here and they are packed in very tight with no privacy. Sometimes there aren't options so you have to take what you can get. There is a boat ramp here and s pack bridge to go for a hike up a desert canyon.