Raft The Yampa River
The Yampa River Canyon is one of the rarest wildernesses left to explore in the United States. It is the only tributary left in the Colorado River Basin to flow freely without a dam. This means the Yampa has been left to its natural devices since its formation over 30 million years ago. Throughout the 71 mile journey, this truly wild river reveals unbelievable scenery, abundant wildlife, thrilling rapids, and artifact-filled alcoves.
The Yampa comes with fun rapid sections that are mostly Class II-III, including “Teepee Rapid” early in the trip, and “5 Springs” and “Big Joe” usually the second day. The biggest rapid on the Yampa River is a Class IV called “Warm Springs” which was formed in the 1960s after a huge landslide. After the Green River confluence, long splashy sections emerge through Split Mountain before the trip’s end. Because the Yampa River is free flowing, its rafting season is usually brief. The peak flows can be unpredictable but usually land somewhere in late May to early June. Water levels also fluctuate daily on the Yampa, so you never really know the exact CFS you’re going to get on a trip.
THE SITES & CAMPING
There are multiple opportunities to hike along the Yampa River, including the panoramic views from Harding Hole, the archeological treasure trove at Mantle’s Cave, and in the geologic galleries of Echo Park. Some campsites will have opportunities to explore side canyons, but mostly once you’re on the Green River portion of the trip. The campsites along the Yampa are filled with wildflowers and shady cottonwoods. Some sites are set in a maze of hackberry bushes, while others are strewn across lush beaches. Each day your guides will set up a comfortable living space (kitchen, common area, bathroom, etc.) and whip up 3-course dinners and filling breakfasts. As for lunch, you’ll usually enjoy it on a scenic beach in between off-river excursions.
The Yampa River is the birthplace of environmentalism. Starting in the 1950’s, two proposed dams were set to destroy Dinosaur National Monument forever. But due to the tenacity of the Hatch family (the founders of commercial river rafting) and David Bower from the Sierra Club, the dam projects were defeated and the movement for wilderness preservation was born. We are forever grateful to those who have continued to keep the Yampa wild and the legacy of Dinosaur National Monument alive.