Colorado’s Rocky Mountains produce countless whitewater rafting trips that would take even the most adventurous rowers years to tick off their lists. However, the Yampa has something special that other rivers in the state can’t really offer. Most rivers in the Colorado Basin have been dammed or diverted. The Yampa, however, runs free—it is truly wild. Rowers and rafters can experience exciting Class III rapids, vivid canyon colors, and explore stories of outlaw hideouts. This is one of the best multi-day rafting and rowing excursions in the country.
The Yampa River flows 250 miles through northwestern Colorado, rising in the Rocky Mountains and serving as a tributary of the Green River and a major part of the Colorado River system. The Yampa comprises primarily Class II rapids with a couple of Class IVs thrown in. The water is generally cold with moderate swim potential during peak flows, which occur from late May through mid-June. The waters originate from the melting snows and glaciers of the Rockies.
This is one of the most sought-after whitewater adventures in the world. When doing this route, most groups tend to spend four or five days out on the river, ending at Dinosaur National Monument, which sits at the boarder of Colorado and Utah. The river forms a very wide, shallow braided stream throughout much of its course, and the lower three-fourths are navigable by small craft.
The Yampa also has an exciting history in the world of environmental activism. In the 1960s, the Yampa and Green River canyons were slated to be flooded under a reservoir created by Echo Park Dam. As a result of environmentalist action and opposition, the dam was never built, and the Yampa continued to flow freely. However, in December of 2006, a report proposed to pump water from the Yampa River 200 miles east, a diversion proposed to start near Maybell, Colorado. This proposal continues to face widespread opposition because it would lower river flows in the late summer—when the flow is already fairly low.
If you’re looking to experience a bit of Colorado history, both modern and ancient, the Yampa River is a can’t-miss raft and row. People travel from around the world to explore this incredible river. If you’re in the state and a fan of rafting, you have no excuse to not take advantage of this natural wonder.