The landscape transitions from alfalfa fields and orchards to the confines of the Yakima Canyon. The high varicolored walls glisten in the sunlight; lower crevices are veiled in shadow. Splashing along the canyon floor is the Yakima River. Prior to construction of the present highway, the only route through the canyon was by railroad. Rugged natural obstacles delayed for years the completion of both the Northern Pacific Railway and the highway.
The highway winds along a shelf carved from solid rock, sometimes by the side of the river, sometimes high above it. From many points along this road, the contour of overhanging cliffs makes the Yakima River appear to run uphill; the river existed before the rocky ridges were heaved up, and it kept pace with the upward movement of the earth in wearing out its channel.