WSP: Consider taking Yakima River Canyon road over I-82 in bad weather

Troopers say they've responded to fewer accidents this winter on State Route 821 than on Interstate 82

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — Washington State Patrol troopers advise the road through Yakima River Canyon, State Route 821, may provide safer driving conditions than Interstate 82 during bad weather.

Trooper John Bryant said despite Canyon Road being a two-lane highway with a lot of curves, WSP responds to fewer car accidents there than people may think. When they do see collisions there, he said they don’t end up blocking the road for very long.

“All the collisions are on I-82 and it’s speeding too fast for conditions or a bad lane change or following too close,” Bryant said.

Bryant said it takes longer for Canyon Road to get icy because it’s at a lower elevation and close to the water. He said the speed limit is also significantly lower at 45 miles per hour, which helps when road conditions are undesirable.

“If you do it during the daytime, you’re gonna really get a spectacular view of the canyon,” Bryant said. “It’s really a beautiful road.”

Bryant said people still need to be on the lookout for falling rocks, crossing animals and sharp curves in the road.

“There’s areas where people have — either under the influence or not under the influence — not paid attention, slid off and slid down; some of them have slipped into the water and when the water’s higher like it is now, you can lose a car real quick,” Bryant said.

Bryant said while the lower speed limit helps drivers stay safe, it also means the drive between Yakima and Ellensburg takes a lot longer. He said if time is an issue and road conditions are clear, then I-82 might be a better option.

“It’s kind of up to the individual person to decide which road they’re going to take,” Bryant said.

Bryant said no matter where drivers are going, it’s a good idea to check the Washington State Department of Transportation website, app or social media pages for information on the latest road conditions.

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