Every river trip is a special one, but when you get a renowned river historian sharing stories and knowledge around the camp circle every night of the trip it makes for a truly incredible experience. For our next photo journal, we take you down the beautiful Yampa River on our Retro River trip with river historian Roy Webb.
Photos by Chris Whitaker
After packing up at our Vernal area warehouse, we all hopped into vans and drove to Deerlodge Park to begin our journey downstream on the wild Yampa River.
Paddling the inflatable kayaks was a fun change of pace from life in the real world!
We floated through some small riffles and past amazing scenery before reaching our first campsite of the trip.
That evening, the guides cooked up a delicious salmon dinner and we listened to historian Roy Webb regale us with tales of John W. Powell and the settling of the West.
We began our second day on the water with our first big rapid of the trip, Teepee Falls.
More rapids awaited us downstream, including Five Springs and Big Joe. After fun, splashy runs through those rapids and a delicious lunch, we pulled over for a hike to Signature Cave.
The guides explained the floodplains here were probably farmed by ancient peoples who migrated through the area on a seasonal basis.
This cave gets its name from the plethora of old river runners who have etched or painted their names in the rock, some dating as far back as the 1930’s.
Shortly after our hike, we arrived at one of the most beautiful river campsites imaginable, Mathers Camp.
Half the fun is choosing where to lay your head for the night!
At Mathers Camp, the choices are plentiful, and it’s impossible to choose a bad bedroom.
The calm water here was great for bathing and swimming, a welcome and refreshing cool down after a warm couple of days on the water.
The guides whipped up another impressive meal (lasagna this time!) and Roy shared more stories about the fascinating history of Dinosaur National Monument.
Every morning one of our guides, Sherpa, would walk around camp playing his handmade wooden flute to gently wake us up and let us know coffee was ready. Truly magical!
We did another hike this morning to a cave known as Mantle Cave. Here, there are ancient granaries dating back over a thousand years.
One scenic highlight from this day was floating by Tiger Wall, named for its signature stripes of desert varnish that streak its side.
You have to kiss it for good luck through Warm Springs Rapid!
Dressed in their best retro attire (cutoff jean shorts and pearl snap shirts), the guides scouted our largest and most technical rapid of the trip, Warm Springs.
While the passengers may have been a bit nervous at the sight of the waves of Warm Springs…
…the guides didn’t show any such anxieties…
…and had great runs while getting everyone splashed!
Yet another beautiful campsite!
View this post on Instagram
With the big rapid behind them and the jean shorts still on, the guides were definitely in a silly mood…
…and once the hard work was done, it was time to play some camp games!
I’ve never seen a better horseshoe court in my life!
The walls across the river from our campsite were abuzz with birds of all kinds, from bald eagles to turkey vultures, and even one or two peregrine falcons.
Watching them fly around was better than any streaming service offerings!
Roy is so full of knowledge and has a seemingly endless supply of fascinating river stories. He has a special gift for storytelling, and the group was always engaged with his words.
Today started with one of our guides treating us to a recitation of an entry from a river legend’s journal, after which we hopped on the boats and floated the last couple of miles of the Yampa River in silence, taking in the sublime beauty and tranquility of the canyon before the confluence with the Green River.
The difference in the two rivers is stark!
The calm water of Echo Park was inviting to the less experienced kayakers who took the chance to practice their paddling skills.
That afternoon, from our campsite at Jones Hole, we took a hike up the creek and saw so much life of all kinds, from blooming prickly pear cactus…
…to herds of bighorn sheep!
Around the campfire on this final night, everyone shared something personal they experienced or valued from the trip, and we celebrated a birthday with pineapple upside-down cake!
Our last day on the river is always tough to accept, but at least it doesn’t disappoint for lack of splashes through Split Mountain Canyon!
Knowing we’ll be back again soon helps to remember, too!