Washington Filmworks uses our Location of the Month newsletters to showcase the diversity of unique looks and resources for production in a number of jurisdictions around Washington State. Find previous installments archived on our website and on the WF Blog.

Yelm – November 2015

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A fascinating mix of small-town pride, history, spectacular views of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Cascade Mountains, Yelm is a special place in Washington State. The backdrop of the riverfront, downtown buildings, 1880’s single family homes, stunning fields of wildflowers, privately owned working farms/farmlands, and charming craft breweries and wineries, and more make it a charming mix of boutique, nature, and history.

Small town lifestyle, accessible urban life, and spectacular nature are at your doorstep. The perfectly centered city is within easy driving distance of an international airport, the Seattle metropolis, the unmatched natural beauty of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Cascade Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean.

The quality of life remains as energizing and vital today as it was 150 years ago when settlers first arrived in the Nisqually Valley. According to Nisqually legend, the area was first known as ‘Shelm’, the name given to the shimmering heat waves above the prairie. The name was later shortened to ‘Yelm’ when settled by Euro-Americans. To honor this history, the area is now referred to as the ‘Pride of the Prairie.’ The Nisqually Indian Tribe still owns beautifully forested reservation lands and is dedicated to preserving the tribal way of life while embracing the economic advantages of a successful casino/hotel.

Yelm Weather

Photo credit: Barbra Kates

Photo credit: Barbra Kates

Yelm residents enjoy perfect summers with months of sunny blue skies and 70 to 80 degree temperatures. In the winter, you can expect gentle rains and moderate temperatures. With a short drive, you can enjoy snow-packed mountains and the winter sports of skiing/snowboarding.

Average Temperature:

January – High 44.0 F, Low 32.0 F

July – High 76.0 F, Low 50.0 F


January Rainfall – 7.54 inches

July Rainfall – 0.82 inches

January Snowfall – 4.3 inches

July Snowfall – 0.0 inches

Sources: intellicast.com

 Key Locations of Interest

Photo credit: Barbra Kates

Photo credit: Barbra Kates

Yelm’s Historical Sites -Yelm and the surrounding towns are steeped in 1850s history. The first permanent American settlers came in 1853 to join the Hudson’s Bay Company sheep farmers, and Yelm was officially incorporated on December 10, 1924. The Pride of the Prairie was the historical gateway to Mount Rainier National Park before modern roads made accessing the park much easier. James Longmire, one of the founders of Yelm, had blazed a trail to the base of the mountain, guided the first climbers there, and established a lodge at Mount Rainier National Park that now bears his name.

Historic Downtowns with Boutiques and Wineries – Wander through unique boutiques, nearby bistros, and wineries in buildings built in the 1880s before heading on a day hike at Mount Rainier.

Yelm-Tenino Bike Trail – This paved bike trail travels for 14.5 miles between the cities of Yelm, Rainier and Tenino.  Ride or stroll through the beautiful Thurston County countryside before it intersects with Chehalis Western Trail, eventually linking the cities of Yelm, Rainier, Tenino, Tumwater, Lacey, Olympia, and Woodard Bay on the Puget Sound.

Home of the Nisqually Tribe – The Yelm Prairie was originally inhabited by members of the Nisqually Indian Tribe, who lived in the South Puget Sound watershed long before 1833 when Fort Nisqually was established as the first white settlement on Puget Sound. The Nisqually people came north from the Great Basin, across the Cascade Mountains, to settle near the Mashel River and outlying areas. They were a fishing people, living off of the rich bounty of the river and sustaining life for their home and environment. The Nisqually Reservation today, just outside Yelm, is 1,280 acres alongside the Nisqually River. The tribe has more than 650 enrolled members, the majority living on or near the reservation.

Photo credit: Barbra Kates

Photo credit: Barbra Kates

Nisqually River and Mount Rainier – Flowing 78 miles from its source at the Nisqually Glacier on Mount Rainier to its delta at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, the Nisqually River is a direct link between the summit snows of Washington’s highest peak and the marine waters of Puget Sound. The Nisqually River Watershed is a land of wind and wildlife, glaciers and storms, towering firs and diminutive banana slugs. The Nisqually is one of the healthiest and least developed rivers in southern Puget Sound.

Throughout the greater Yelm area, visitors can enjoy magnificent views of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Cascades Mountains.  Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S.A., spawning six major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems.

Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad – Today the MRSR is indebted to Tom Murray and a host of volunteers who turn out to operate and maintain the vintage rolling stock. More than 90 percent of the crews who keep the trains rolling are volunteers – the heart and soul of the organization. Each year thousands of passengers step aboard a MRSR trail, feeling suspended in time, as it travels through the verdant timbered forest a rider on the MRSR. The plaintive wail of a vintage locomotive whistle sends a lonesome echo rolling against the hillsides as travelers relax to a pace of a bygone era.

Working Farms – The area is dotted with farms that have been in private hands since the 1850s, lovingly protected and retaining their charm. Owners are proud of their farms and invite visitors to enjoy their produce or gaze over large herds of cattle, alpacas, and other herds (including elk). The area attracts people from miles away who prefer to live on gorgeous farmland with running streams and mountain views.

Distance to Closest Large Washington Airport

  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is approximately 41 miles from Yelm.

Distance to Closest Large City in Washington

  • Olympia is approximately 20 miles from Yelm.
  • Tacoma is approximately 31 miles from Yelm.
  • Seattle is approximately 62 miles from Yelm.

 Relevant Contact Names and Information

Photo credit: Barbra Kates

Photo credit: Barbra Kates

  • Local Film Liaison – Victoria Wortberg, Executive Director, Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce, (360) 458-6608, director@yelmchamber.com
  • Agency that issues permits and costs – The City of Yelm issues all permits and street closures. Mayor Ron Harding, City of Yelm, (360) 458-8401, ronh@ci.yelm.wa.us
  • Police or Sheriff’s Department or agency that handles traffic control – The City of Yelm issues all permits and street closures. Mayor Ron Harding, City of Yelm, (360) 458-8401, ronh@ci.yelm.wa.us


Photo credit: Barbra Kates

Photo credit: Barbra Kates

Praire Hotel – http://www.prairiehotel.com/


1411 Fourth Ave., Suite 420
Seattle,WA 98101
(206) 264-0667
Washington Filmworks is the non-profit 501(c)(6) organization that manages the state film and production incentive programs. Its mission is to create economic development opportunities by building and enhancing the competitiveness, profile, and sustainability of Washington’s film industry. We do this by creating