In 1888, the Northern Pacific Railroad built a new station in the western part of Benton County at present-day Kiona. This allowed farmers to easily bring their produce to market (the main crops were corn, wheat, alfalfa, potatoes, and fruit, especially apples), which encouraged further settlement in the area.
Due to the sparse precipitation in the area, most agriculture at the time was dryland farming. Irrigation first came to the county in the 1890s and brought many changes. In the 1890s the Yakima Irrigation and Improvement Company built a canal bringing water from the Yakima River to Kiona.
The Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company built a new railroad across the Yakima River from Kiona in 1907. The new community of Benton City sprang up around it. Beginning in 1917, the Yellowstone Trail, a national highway from Massachusetts to Seattle, was routed through Kiona.
In 2002, the Kiona Bridge over the Yakima River at Benton City was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In the 1890's Kiona was a bustling town and railroad stop with many stores and saloons. Its economy was fed by the extensive grain fields atop the Horse Heaven Hills. If one looks to the east of the current grade up the hills (McBee Grade), a second grade can be seen. This is the remains of the old wagon road, which heavy wagons filled with wheat would be driven down. The old trail begins just east of the new grade, a little beyond the canal and zigzags once to the visible part of the old grade. After the turn of the nineteenth century to the twentieth, more people began to homestead on the north side of the Yakima River and Kiona's importance began to fade. The school was moved to the newer community of Benton City in the early part of the twentieth century. The few commercial establishments left in Kiona were obliterated with the coming of the freeway in the late sixties or early seventies.