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The Saddle Mountains on the Yakima Training Center as seen from the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Photo looking east southeasterly at Boylston tunnel.

Rail cut on the Yakima Training Center in the eastern end of the Iron Horse State Park portion of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail as it nears the Columbia River south of Vantage

The Yakima Training Center is a United States Army training center, used for maneuver training, land warrior system testing and live fire area, located in the south central portion of the U.S. state of Washington. It is bounded on the west by Interstate 82, on the south by the city of Yakima, on the north by the city of Ellensburg and Interstate 90, and on the east by the Columbia River. It comprises 327,000 acres (132,332 hectares) of land, most of which consists of shrub-steppe, making it one of the largest areas of shrub-steppe habitat remaining in Washington state. The terrain is undulating and dominated by three east–west parallel ridges, the Saddle Mountains, Manastash Ridge, and Umtanum Ridge anticlines, which are part of the Yakima Fold Belt near the western edge of the Columbia River Plateau. As is common for shrub-steppe, vegetation consists of sagebrush, bitter brush, and bunch grass.[1][2]

Fort Lewis uses the facility for maneuver and live fire training. Vagabond Army Airfield and Selah Airstrip are located on the Yakima Training Center.


From 1942 to 1946 the U.S. Army leased 160,000 acres (650 km2) of land in the area for the Yakima Anti-Aircraft Artillery Range. Then in 1951 the Army purchased 261,000 acres (1,060 km2) for the Yakima Firing Center, which would become the modern Yakima Training Center.[3]

Ancillary functions

In addition to its role as a training facility, the Yakima facility has been asserted to play a major role in ECHELON, the global surveillance network operated by the National Security Agency (NSA).[4][5] The SIGINT portion of the facility is referred to as Yakima Research Station.[6][7] The small Yakima intercept station remains an important means of intercepting COMINT passing through the plethora of INTELSAT and other international communications satellites orbiting geosynchronously above the earth.[8] In April 2013, the Yakima Herald reported that the Yakima Research Station was going to be shut down at some unspecified time in the future with its function moving to a facility in Colorado.[7] The office of the Congressman in whose district the facility is located was notified by the NSA in summer of 2012 that the facility was going to be shutdown.[7] This was subsequently confirmed with the Navy posting an OPNAV notice of closure.[9] The functions of the facilities will be moved to the Aerospace Data Facility at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado and result in the loss of 100+ jobs from the Yakima area.[8]

Public access

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail crosses the Yakima Training Center on the former roadbed of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, which traverses 300 miles (480 km) across two-thirds of Washington from the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains to the Idaho border. The railroad right-of-way was acquired by Washington state and is used as a non-motorized recreational trail. The 20-mile (32 km) segment east from Kittitas to the Columbia River just south of Vantage has been developed and is managed as the Iron Horse State Park as it crosses the Yakima Training Center.[10] The military also allows hunting when the range is not "hot" (live fire exercises).


  1. article on Yakima Training Center
  2. Official Army Site
  3. Seattle Times article from 12-14-2008
  4. Bamford, James (1982). The Puzzle Palace: A Report on America's Most Secret Agency.. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-31286-8. 
  5. Schmid, Gerhard (2001-07-11). "On the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications (ECHELON interception system) - Temporary Committee on the ECHELON Interception System, (2001/2098(INI))" (pdf - 194 pages). European Parliament: Temporary Committee on the ECHELON Interception System. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  6. "Yakima Research Station". Archived from the original on 2009-11-17. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "NSA to close Yakima Training Center facility". Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "NSA Closing the Yakima Research Station SIGINT Intercept Site". Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  9. "OPNAV NOTICE 5400". Archived from the original on 2013-02-10. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  10. "Long-Distance Trails of the Washington State Parks System". Retrieved 12 July 2008. 

External links

Coordinates: 46°45′40″N 120°11′29″W / 46.76111°N 120.19139°W / 46.76111; -120.19139

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