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Yampa River, Colorado
Report by Marc W. McCord

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

The Yampa River has its headwaters in the White River National Forest of northeastern Garfield County, Colorado. It flows about 261 miles, starting near Stillwater with a north by northwest flow into Routt County and the Routt National Forest of northwestern Colorado to Steamboat Springs where it turns west then flows through Moffat County to its confluence with the Green River near the Utah border. Trips often include an additional 25 miles or more down the Green River to the Split Mountain Campground, or beyond, in Utah. The Yampa is the ONLY free-flowing river in Colorado, the rest being obstructed to some extent by dams and diversions. Most of the Yampa River flows through wide, deep canyons that tower above the riverbed. Other than for a few short miles around Steamboat Springs, the river flows through a wilderness area far removed from civilization. The long run through Yampa Canyon is a Class I to III whitewater run, but most of the runs on side creeks are rated Class IV to VI, as is Cross Mountain Gorge immediately above this reach. Yampa Canyon is a 71-mile run that is suitable for any competent boater. Most of the big water runs are for expert kayakers only, and are 5 miles or less.

The long runs are boatable in canoes, kayaks, rafts, duckies and dories. The run around Steamboat Springs can even be tubed. While most of the Yampa River is suitable for boating, paddlers will find it best within the 131 miles of the Yampa River State Park, where there are 8 public access points between the pump station east of Hayden and Deerpark Lodge northwest of Elk Springs. Five additional public access points allow for trips above and below the Yampa River State Park. Most of the land along the river is privately owned, and boaters are encouraged, as always, to respect private property rights. The Yampa is best paddled in late spring, when the run-off creates a navigable flow - otherwise, be prepared to walk and carry your boats and gear.

Abundant photographic opportunities can be found on and off the river, its feeder creeks and tributary rivers. Many hiking adventures in caves and side canyons can be found all along the Yampa River. Yampa Canyon runs require a permit from the National Park Service in the area of Dinosaur National Monument. In contrast to most other Colorado rivers where tall spruce and aspen forests adorn granite canyon walls, the Yampa River is mostly sandstone canyons sparsely covered with sagebrush.

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Yampa River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ Stillwater to Steamboat Springs ] [ Steamboat Springs to West Cross Mountain ] [ Deerlodge Park to Split Mountain Campground ]
[ White River ] [ Elk River ]

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Last updated January 1, 2015

Copyright © 1997-2015, Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. All rights reserved. Southwest Paddler, CobraGraphics and Canoeman River Guide Services are trademarks of Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. The textual, graphic, audio, and audio/visual material in this site is protected by United States copyright law and international treaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except for your personal, non-commercial use. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All original photographs on this web site are the exclusive property of Marc W. McCord or other designated photographers and may not be copied, duplicated, reproduced, distributed or used in any manner without prior written permission under penalty of US and International laws and treaties.