Yampa River Rafting Descriptive Essay

Yampa, Colorado, US

05. Deerlodge Park to Echo Park (Dinosaur)

Usual DifficultyII-III(IV) (for normal flows)
Length46 Miles
Avg. Gradient12 fpm

Hula at the Grand Overhang

Hula at the Grand Overhang
Photo of Steve, Penny and Claire Durbin by Bruce Hicks taken 07/01/08 @ 5000 cfs

Gauge Information

River Description

The Yampa is a classic multi-day whitewater river. Most boaters spend 3 to 5 days floating the Yampa and Green Rivers that comprise this run. For most in-season runs a permit must be acquired from the Dinosaur National Monument Ranger Station. These permits are highly competitive and the possibility of winning a permit varies year to year. The permit generally specifies the camping beaches for each float trip.

This page describes the Yampa to the confluence of the Green at Echo Park.  Boaters almost alway continue another 26 miles down the Green Echo Park to Split Mountain section. The total distance of the two sections is about 72 miles.

As a high desert run the weather pattern of the Yampa River can range from freezing to over 100 degrees in less than a day during the early float season. Later runs in July or August are generally hotter and more predictable but can suffer from low water and mosquitoes.

Almost every big rapid on the Yampa can be scouted on river right. The Yampa at Deerlodge starts as a wide meandering river in an open desert. Within a mile or so it enters a box canyon and some easy but continuous rapids begin. There are several notable rapids on the Yampa and the gradient is fairly constant for most of the first day. On the second or third day of paddling the Yampa becomes tranquil as it approaches its largest rapid, Warm Springs.
Scout Warm Springs from river right. A huge flood that temporarily dammed the river formed this rapid. The rapid itself would not be much more than an easy class IV drop were it not on a multi day river excursion. Flipping a raft in Warm Springs almost always results in an unpleasant night with wet or lost gear.

Below Warm Springs the river continues to present complex rapids and wave trains, but never approaches the difficulty of Warm Springs until after the confluence with the Green in Split Mountain Canyon.

Any whitewater boat (C-1, OC-1, OC-2, Raft, K-1, K-2, etc can float the Yampa.)

Permit Information


Permits required year around. Lottery for high-use season second weeked in May to second weekend in July with applications due Jan 31.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified

Last Updated: 2017-12-28 23:17:14


by Julie Trevelyan

Warm Springs Rapid in high water

Are you looking for a wild ride? The Yampa River delivers just that! As the last undammed river in the Colorado River system, the Yampa rises to epic proportions in big run-off months May and June. What does that mean for you? Chills, thrills, possibly spills, and a whole lotta fun as you holler and grin during your Colorado river rafting vacation on this rip snorter of a river.

Holiday’s Yampa River trip totals 71 miles, 46 of which are on the Yampa itself (the rest are on the Green River when we merge with it at Echo Park). The Warm Springs Rapid, formed in 1965 by a flash flood, is one of the country’s top ten toughest rapids to run. Holiday guides have plenty of experience with the whitewater of the free-flowing Yampa. Rafting Colorado water like this is an adventure you will always remember!

Trip specifics

Light on the canyon walls

Average Flows:

The Yampa River has an average water flow of 2,500 CFS (cubic feet per second). Hit it up in the months of May and June and hold onto your hat for a wild ride. When the snow starts melting, the Yampa gets to booming. See current water flow conditions at the USGS site.


Jones Hole Creek is a great little area where you might spend part of a day exploring, strolling around, swimming, or even casting a line to do some fishing. Ancient petroglyphs dot the area, inviting speculation as to lives of the long-ago Indian inhabitants who left their sometimes cryptic figures and depictions in the rock walls. A waterfall also splashes down here and makes for a great photo spot.

Side Canyon Hiking to ruins

Historical Significance:

Ute Indians made the Yampa River area their home for thousands of years. Their petroglyphs and pictographs remain today as testament to their lives here. One food they ate was the yampa plant, also known as wild carrot. Fur trappers and settlers later utilized the canyon during westward explorations. The Yampa flows right through Dinosaur National Monument, which expanded in 1930 in order to include the river and all its resources. As one of the country’s last mostly undammed rivers today, the Yampa offers valuable information to hydrologists, biologists, and geologists studying the natural courseway and effects of a natural river.

Who will enjoy this trip most:

Adventurous families, groups of friends, corporate getaways—anyone who’s keen to set off on a river the way nature intended it, whitewater and all, will enjoy rafting the Yampa. One of the country’s biggest whitewater rapids can be found when river rafting the Yampa, so anyone who wants to check out this trip should be ready for that. Beautiful, calmer spots spent floating between 2,000-foot canyon walls appeal to everyone who appreciates the gorgeous scenery of canyon rivers.

Paddle Rafting

Fun facts:

1. In Colorado, the Yampa flows right through Dinosaur National Monument.

2. The Yampa River is one of the most biologically intact rivers in the U.S., meaning its local flora and fauna are the original, authentic deal.

3. Fun rock formations seen along the way: Cleopatra’s Couch, Tiger Wall, The Grand Overhang.

4. River legend has it that for good luck running Warm Springs Rapid you must stop and kiss Tiger Wall.

5. Not so fun fact: The Yampa is in danger from the water thirsty Front Range of Colorado.  Check out Friends of the Yampa to see what you can do to help.   It all begins with water conservation!

Written by Julie Trevelyan.

Julie is a freelance writer and wilderness guide in southern Utah. She especially enjoys books, coffee, yoga, wild country, horses, and dark chocolate.

See more of her work at www.wildgirlwriting.com

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