Geography of Kittitas County, Washington

Nestled in the heart of Washington State, Kittitas County is a region marked by diverse geography, featuring a mix of mountains, rivers, and plains. With a climate shaped by its proximity to the Cascade Range and the Columbia River, Kittitas County offers a unique landscape that influences both its natural ecosystems and human activities. In this detailed exploration, we’ll delve into the geography, climate, rivers, lakes, and other prominent features that define Kittitas County.┬áCheck topschoolsoflaw to learn more about the state of Washington.

Geographical Overview:

Kittitas County is located in central Washington, covering an area of approximately 2,297 square miles. Its central location within the state places it between the Cascade Range to the west and the Columbia River to the east. The county seat is the city of Ellensburg, an important hub within the region.


The climate of Kittitas County is characterized by a semi-arid to arid continental climate, influenced by the rain shadow effect created by the Cascade Range. This results in distinct seasons with hot, dry summers and cold winters, offering a diverse climate that shapes both natural and human landscapes.

Summer: Summers in Kittitas County are generally warm and dry, with daytime temperatures often reaching the high 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit. The arid climate and abundant sunshine during this season contribute to the flourishing of agricultural activities, including the cultivation of crops like hay and grains.

Winter: Winters are cold, with temperatures frequently dropping below freezing. Snowfall is common, particularly in the higher elevations of the Cascade Range. The snow-covered landscape adds a picturesque quality to the region, attracting winter sports enthusiasts to areas like Snoqualmie Pass.

Spring and Fall: Both spring and fall offer transitional periods with mild temperatures. Spring brings the blossoming of wildflowers, while fall showcases vibrant foliage as temperatures gradually cool. These seasons provide opportunities for outdoor activities and scenic exploration.


The topography of Kittitas County is diverse, ranging from the rugged mountains of the Cascade Range to the more gently rolling hills and plains. The county is traversed by several rivers and dotted with lakes, contributing to its overall geographic richness.

Cascade Range: The western part of Kittitas County is dominated by the Cascade Range, which includes prominent peaks like Mount Stuart and the Teanaway Ridge. These mountains not only shape the climate through their rain shadow effect but also offer recreational opportunities for hiking, climbing, and wildlife observation.

Yakima River Valley: The Yakima River, a significant waterway in the region, flows through the county, creating the fertile Yakima River Valley. This valley is characterized by agricultural lands, orchards, and vineyards, showcasing the importance of water resources in sustaining the local economy.

Rivers and Water Bodies:

Kittitas County is crisscrossed by several rivers and streams, each contributing to the overall hydrology and providing essential resources for both natural ecosystems and human activities.

Yakima River: The Yakima River is a vital watercourse that meanders through Kittitas County, offering sustenance to the surrounding lands. It provides irrigation for agriculture and supports a variety of wildlife, including fish and waterfowl. The river’s scenic beauty also attracts outdoor enthusiasts for activities like fishing, rafting, and kayaking.

Teanaway River: A tributary of the Yakima River, the Teanaway River flows through the northern part of the county, contributing to the overall watershed. The Teanaway area is known for its rugged landscapes and hiking trails, providing opportunities for nature enthusiasts to explore the region.

Lakes and Reservoirs: While Kittitas County is not known for large natural lakes, it is home to several reservoirs created by dams, including Cle Elum Lake and Bumping Lake. These reservoirs play a crucial role in water storage, recreation, and the generation of hydroelectric power.

Flora and Fauna:

The diverse geography of Kittitas County supports a wide range of flora and fauna, adapted to the varying climates and ecosystems found within the region.

Flora: The lower elevations feature sagebrush steppe, while higher elevations showcase coniferous forests dominated by pine and fir trees. Wildflowers bloom in the spring, adding bursts of color to the landscape. The Yakima River Valley is renowned for its orchards, vineyards, and agricultural fields.

Fauna: Wildlife in Kittitas County includes a variety of species, such as mule deer, elk, coyotes, and various bird species. The rivers and lakes support fish populations, including salmon and trout. The diverse habitats create opportunities for birdwatching, hunting, and fishing.

Economic Activities:

Kittitas County’s geography has a significant impact on its economy, with a focus on agriculture, outdoor recreation, and education.

Agriculture: The fertile lands of the Yakima River Valley support a thriving agricultural sector. Crops like hay, apples, cherries, and hops are cultivated, contributing to the local and regional economy. The county’s agricultural heritage is celebrated through events like the Ellensburg Rodeo.

Outdoor Recreation: The varied landscapes provide ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. Skiing and snowboarding in the winter, hiking and camping in the summer, and fishing and boating in the rivers and lakes attract visitors throughout the year. The John Wayne Pioneer Trail, a rail-trail conversion, offers a scenic route for cyclists and hikers.

Education: The presence of Central Washington University in Ellensburg adds an educational dimension to the county. The university contributes to the cultural and intellectual vibrancy of the region, attracting students and faculty from diverse backgrounds.


In conclusion, Kittitas County, Washington, stands as a testament to the diverse and dynamic geography that characterizes the Pacific Northwest. From the towering peaks of the Cascade Range to the fertile Yakima River Valley, the county’s landscapes offer a rich tapestry of natural beauty and economic opportunity. The climate, rivers, lakes, and other geographical features contribute to a unique blend of ecosystems, supporting both wildlife and human activities. Whether exploring the mountains, enjoying outdoor recreation, or participating in the agricultural heritage, Kittitas County provides a multifaceted experience that captures the essence of the region’s geographic diversity.