Yampa River rafting is special because the Yampa is WILD. This is the last river in the Colorado River system that is not regulated by a dam. Despite continued attempts by the Bureau of Reclamation and Congress, the only major dam ever constructed on the Yampa River was built by Mother Nature. And even that was temporary. On June 9th, 1965, a massive flash flood and debris flow carried thousands of tons of rock down Warm Springs Draw, completely blocking the river channel. The river slowed upstream of the obstruction, and the current snarled and boiled and pushed against the debris. It took only 24 hours for the river to breach the natural dam, leaving in its wake Warm Springs Rapid, rated as one of the 10 biggest drops in the country. Dee Holladay was one of the first to run the newly formed rapid.
Every May and June this whitewater river rises to the occasion. The Yampa CRANKS with consistent rapids, fast-moving current, and plenty of full-bodied waves from the first day to the last. Like many wild things, the Yampa River also has a serene side: sheer, tiger-striped walls that rise over 1,000 feet to the canyon rim, the liquid darkness of the night sky strewn with stars, sandy campsites among junipers and ponderosa pines, side-canyon waterfalls, and indigenous rock art dating back over a thousand years ago. If you feel the need for something rare, something wild and free, the Yampa is waiting.
Read more: Insider’s Guide to Whitewater Rafting on the Yampa River
Vernal, Utah: Things to Do and Places to Explore
“I have never been on a whitewater trip before and I took the Yampa River trip in June with my son as a graduation gift for him. Words cannot describe how impressed we were with everything. From the greeting/introductions we received at Vernal headquarters to the instructions prior to getting in the river, the guides were friendly and professional. We went to see soaring canyon walls and whitewater and we got that. But what we also got was gourmet food preparation (WOW) and informed guides—they knew about everything, trees, rocks, history, wildlife, all of it! Most important, it was clear that the safety of their guests was always on their minds. This is an excellent outfitter and there is no rival. We’ll be back.” (Victor Rodriguez)