In 2018, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) updated the management plan for the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, which consists of three units. The management plan addresses the status of wildlife species in the area and their habitat, the progress of restoration efforts, and public recreation opportunities. The plan covers activities for three landscapes:
- Cowiche Unit
The Cowiche unit covers 7,683 acres south of Tieton and west of Yakima. The South Fork Cowiche Creek, which hosts spawning steelhead, flows for more than three miles through the unit. An excellent example of shrub-steppe habitat, the Cowiche unit attracts a variety of birds. Elk and mule deer can be found year-round, with hunting opportunities available in fall. There are two hiking trails – the William O. Douglas Trail and the Box Spring Canyon Trail – on the wildlife area unit. One elk winter feed site is located on the unit, but there is no public access to view the elk in the winter.
- Oak Creek Unit
The 48,990-acre Oak Creek Unit is located west of Naches and is bisected by the Naches and Tieton Rivers. This is a popular area for hunting deer, elk, and upland game birds, as well as for camping, rafting and rock climbing along the Tieton River. Hiking trails provide access to spectacular displays of spring wildflowers and bird-watching, especially the Tieton River Nature Trail. Tim's Pond along Highway 12 is stocked with trout several times a year, making it a popular family fishing spot.
A winter elk feeding program is conducted annually to help deter elk from intruding upon neighboring agricultural land. California bighorn sheep are also fed during the winter on Cleman Mountain. These feed sites provide an excellent opportunity to observe elk and sheep up close. Bald eagles and golden eagles are also abundant in winter.
- Rock Creek Unit
The 10,386-acre unit, which is 35 miles northwest of Yakima, was acquired in two stages, in 2009 and 2011. Mountain goats roam the alpine areas in the Rock Creek Unit, while the shrub steppe and basalt cliffs are home to elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep. Rivers and streams flowing through the unit are used by bull trout, cutthroat and rainbow trout, as well as salmon. Recreation opportunities include hunting, camping, hiking, wildlife viewing and the use of off-road vehicle trails. The unit has breathtaking views of Mount Rainier from the top of Bald Mountain and unique landforms like Devils Slide.
Every eight to 10 years, WDFW revises management plans for each of its 33 wildlife areas to document current conditions, address new agency initiatives, and identify new management priorities and actions. In between those major revisions, WDFW updates plans every two years to outline short-term objectives and accomplishments.