Keeping the Wild Yampa Wild


By Nathan Fey, Colorado Stewardship Director for American Whitewater

Cutting through the steep canyons and arid sage lands of northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah, the Yampa is the region’s lifeblood. The river’s relentless force has carved out the area’s stratified geology and exposed the fossils that give Dinosaur National Monument its name.

The Yampa’s calm waters also lure anglers and its rapids attract almost 10,000 kayakers, rafters and adventure-seekers each year. I have paddled this river, and it is a treasure. I know there is nothing more important to the vitality of this arid region.

Many consider the Yampa the birthplace of the river conservation movement in the West. In the 1950s, when David Brower fought against the proposal to drown the Yampa Canyon behind the proposed Echo Park dam, a new era of awareness and conservation was born.

Today, as we plan our annual trip down the Yampa in late May (spaces are still available!), I’m reminded again of how special this river is. As one of the last free-flowing rivers in the West, the Yampa is a place for inspiration, adventure and the unexpected. As the home of one of the most challenging rapids in the West, Warm Springs, the Yampa provides opportunity for growth and challenge to even the most experienced paddlers, while on its calmer stretches, families with kids can enjoy the pristine sandstone cliffs and scenic canyons shaped by the river.

I recall a trip in May 2011 during some of the highest water levels on record in the river. I joined friends and colleagues on the annual Yampa River Awareness Project, for a float though the National Monument. Most of us on the trip had years of experience on rivers – assessing streamflow levels, guiding first-timers, scouting rapids, and sharing stories around the campfire of adventures from —> Read More