This city, first settled in the 1860s, fought a losing battle with a great railroad. When, after many delays the Northern Pacific Railroad built through the valley in 1884, Union Gap (then known as Yakima City) refused to make concessions for terminals. The railroad deliberately created a new town four miles to the north, and called it North Yakima; most of the old town of Yakima City contains buildings moved from Union Gap to the new settlement.
Just south of the town there is a spectacular scenic feature that the town is named for, the gap through which the Yakima River flows between two large ridges, along SR 97. The Indian name was Pah-ho-ta-cute.