what used to be bum canyon

(Please note: I have completely updated this story. Rather than reading this one, I recommend you find my story entitled, “The Magical Place That Was Bum Canyon”. It tells the story, from A to Z.)

I recently wrote in my blog about how I grew up in Yakima, Washington in the 1950’s, next to “Bum Canyon”. (Please see my post, “Memories Of Bum Canyon”.) My friends and I played there. We sledded; we built forts on land that looked like it was carved right out of the Old West; we visited with hobos. I bird-watched in the canyon, where I found wonderful moments of solitude.

I wrote of the large, brick ice house where freight trains stopped to allow boxcars to take on ice, and of how the ice house workers would chip off a little chuck of ice for us, so we could cool off on a hot Yakima summer’s day.

I talked of the old, abandoned stone, or wood and stone house, where we kids played, which stood near the canyon. I figured its location would have been in the 600 block of South 3rd Avenue, on the corner. I wondered if it still stood.

And I wondered if today’s kids play in the canyon; if jackrabbits still jump out of the bushes; if the sun still beats down on the tumbleweeds.

Since fifty-five years have passed since I explored Bum Canyon, I wondered if it were still there, and if so, was it anything like it was in the 1950’s. I also hoped to pinpoint its exact location, or previous location. I had inkling it would now be the site of warehouses and other commercial buildings.

I asked the good folks on a Facebook group page, “Growing Up In Yakima, Wa”, to tell me what they knew. I received a good deal of information from fellow group members, in the form of comments, and I’d like to summarize that information here:

As to the location of the canyon: LeAnn Evans, who grew up on Yakima’s Ledwich Avenue, said that one street east was Volker, and then came Bum Canyon. So the canyon apparently bordered Volker.

SalinaRose Morphis Mariscal confirmed that the canyon is gone. She says construction of the Nob Hill overpass and the Shields buildings changed everything.

Regarding today’s children visiting the canyon, Marti Reynolds said, “Sadly, I am sure no kids play in that area.”

Bee Stiner said the jackrabbits are gone; the orchard growers destroyed them because they were eating their new sapling trees.

ice man

Cynthia Kimmel Keller said her husband, Steve Keller, also remembers getting ice chips from the ice house. It turns out Steve and I went to Hoover School together. I had forgotten that.

Debby Taylor SanChez shared information about the hobos: “My mom would give the bums sandwiches. They started getting aggressive, so she quit in the early 60’s.” And, she mentioned some of the activities she and her friends were involved in: “We would go down there and build fires, camp out all day, ride our bikes. The bums would steal them and the police would find them all mangled on the tracks by Union Gap. We sledded down the hills all winter. That was our favorite place to be.”

stone house by bum canyon the real one

Rick Schlosstein was able to locate a photo of the actual house in the story; he and Michael Johnson pinpointed the house’s location as 621 South 3rd Avenue. (The photo you see here is the actual house!) Michael Johnson, through Zillow, learned that the house was built in 1910. He supplied this link, where details regarding the house are found.


Lourie Galutia noted that in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the house served as the pastor’s home for the Central Assembly of God Church.

Finally, here is a Google view of the area, which clearly indicates that much, if not all of Bum Canyon has been paved over. The micro-system where birds and jackrabbits lived, where kids played, and where hobos occasionally camped, is now a commercial area. Some might say it is the victim of progress.


Whether you think paving Bum Canyon and erecting buildings on it is a good thing or not, is up to you. I’m sure needed jobs were created. That’s a good thing. I’m just sad that the wildlife lost their niche, and that the kids lost a great place to play and learn a little about nature. Time marches on, in Yakima, as it does everywhere.


Additional thoughts/Notes:

Developing Bum Canyon must have been a major undertaking! It was pretty big….

Bum Canyon was like a little mini-desert, plucked out of New Mexico. The only thing missing was the road runner. It was a heavenly place to play, walk, be alone, look at natural plants and animals. I imagine it could have been developed in a totally different manner. We have a small nature preserve in Seattle that is in a very developed, bustling area. (To my knowledge, no one makes any money from it.) I imagine this could have been done with Bum Canyon. It could have been turned into a giant park/sanctuary. But all that land was sitting so near the railroad tracks, and near other warehouses. I can see how from a business perspective it made sense to do what they did. I am making these observations in Seattle, and from the perspective of a person who last saw the area circa 1959. Still, I would have liked to have been there when plans were being made. It would have been interesting!

I don’t think I could stand to see the area now. I would probably start crying. I would remember the nighthawks and jackrabbits and tumbleweeds, the small wildflowers, and just the good old dirt which was formerly found there.

One respondent mentioned a feature that was added to Yakima after I relocated to Seattle: The Yakima Greenway. She described it thusly (paraphrased): “It is 10 miles long, it includes the Yakima river, lakes, parks, nature trails. It runs from Yakima, south to Union Gap. There are wild life viewing platforms and nice walking trails.”

What I envisioned would have been totally different from the Greenway, because Bum Canyon was so dry. It was a desert-like environment, not green and “leafy”. It would have needed some restoration; but it could have been beautiful.

I do realize that progress must take place. We all regret seeing something we loved replaced; but that is how it goes. We need to go with the flow!

In an amazing coincidence, the inner city apartment building I live in on lower Queen Anne in Seattle, has a tiny “nature preserve” where raccoons, squirrels, birds and kitty cats visit. It is directly behind my apartment. This is my view. I have no street view; no view of buildings. I am blessed with just this little view. It’s “my Bum Canyon”.

yard and ashanti 004

yard and ashanti 002

Joni Mitchell weighs in on the conversation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWwUJH70ubM