Hanson Ponds Restoration Project

This project is located in Cle Elum, WA on and adjacent to Hanson Ponds, gravel pits created by the Washington Department of Transportation. Hanson Ponds are adjacent to the Yakima River (river mile 182) south of Cle Elum, WA and I-90. In 2004, the Yakama Nation breached sections of the gravel pit levees to connect them to the Yakima River. The goal of the breach was to provide refuge for young Coho, Spring Chinook, and Steelhead during high summer irrigation flows. Even though it is next to I-90, this site is a popular recreation spot for the local community. It is also the location of the City of Cle Elum’s sewer outfall and is a reach of the river that supports salmon spawning and rearing.  


In 2019, the City of Cle Elum approached Kittitas Conservation Trust to ask if we were interested in providing project management for a bank stabilization project. The Yakima River is eroding the bank above the inlet into Hanson Ponds, which will eventually lead to the river avulsing (changing course) into Hanson Ponds. Working with the City of Cle Elum and partners, KCT identified additional needs at the site including improving salmon habitat and recreational opportunities. The quality of salmon habitat in the ponds is poor – warm waters often leave salmon susceptible to warm water predators and invasive fish species. In addition, several years ago a large flood event washed out the bridge across the inlet and so recreational access is cut off during high irrigation flows in the summer. 


KCT applied for additional funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB). We received support to hire engineers to do a large-scale assessment of the area. Engineers will collect data and develop models to increase our understanding of the opportunities and constraints in this reach of the Yakima River. The assessment will lead to initial designs that balance the habitat, infrastructure, and recreational needs at the site. 


For more information on the project, you can visit the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office’s Project Snapshot: https://secure.rco.wa.gov/prism/search/projectsnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=19-1502

Project Details

Date Completed

General Area
Hanson Ponds, Cle Elum, WA


Improved salmon habitat and infrastructure protection

Photo Gallery

Large wood placed in Hanson Ponds by the Yakama Nation for habitat.
The outlet channel from Hanson Ponds 2 has several drops on it that may be impassible to juvenile salmon.
Yakima River Side Channel
Bank erosion above the inlet channel to Hanson Ponds.
City of Cle Elum sewer outfall.
Yakima River side channel adjacent to Hanson Ponds