The Yampa River Preserve in Steamboat Springs, Colorado is a protected habitat where plant and wildlife are allowed to flourish in their natural setting. It is run by The Nature Conservancy and open to visitors looking for outdoor adventure and an up-close view of nature.
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is dedicated to protecting, promoting, and conserving the natural lands and waters across the world. They operate in 79 countries and territories, including the USA. The Conservancy runs over 100 marine projects that study and safeguard the wildlife and plant life that live in these natural habitats.
The Conservancy provides homeowners and businesses with alternative options to the conventional practices of land management, helping to create a world in which nature can thrive alongside the modern world. Conservation tools and methods are readily available to both private and public landowners interested in protecting the natural environment around them.
The Yampa River basin was inhabited by the Fremont Indians beginning around 800 AD. The Fremonts occupied the land for several hundred years, until suddenly disappearing in the 1400s. They left behind their history depicted in petroglyphs all around the Yampa River Canyon, most of which remain intact and accessible to researchers and adventurers interested in this important piece of Colorado’s past.
After the still unexplained disappearance of the Fremonts, the Ute Indians took over this region. They stretched across Colorado, from the Yampa and White Rivers valleys all the way to the Rockies. Those who lived in in Yampa were referred to as Yamparika or Yapudttka Utes. Yamparika translates to “yampa eaters” and refers to the roots of the yampa plant, which was abundant in this area and a common source of food.
The Preserve Today
At the Yampa River Preserve, the Conservancy has fought to protect 8,800 acres of land and water that run alongside a 10-mile stretch of the Yampa River. This part of the Yampa River flows through Morgan Bottom, a 15-mile long floodplain where bald eagles and otters roam through a rare riparian forest made up of cottonwood, box elders, and dogwood.
Here, natural flooding is a common occurrence, and one which helps to keep the land rich and fertile. As old banks erode with each flood, new sediment is deposited, encouraging the growth of new wetlands and forests.
The riparian forest is unique not only for its varied vegetation, but because they are among the most fertile environments in the natural world. They lessen bank erosion and increase biodiversity amongst both flora and fauna, making them an essential part of the natural world.
The Yampa River is one of the few free-flowing rivers not only in Colorado, but in the United States. It runs for 250 miles, starting in the Rocky Mountains, and is a major tributary of the Green River. It is an important part of Colorado’s river system.
The Preserve is open year-round from dawn to dusk, but mosquitoes run rampant in the summer months. Bring bug spray, even if you plan to spend only a short time there. Activities permitted in the preserve include:
- Wildlife viewing
- Nature-based activities
Hunting, fishing, and camping opportunities run up and down the Yampa River, but may not be permitted within the grounds of the preserve. Check with the local public lands management office to confirm that you are hunting or fishing in an appropriate area.
For those interested in a longer journey, continuing down the Yampa River will take you through Colorado’s Dinosaur National Monument, near the border of Utah and Colorado. Numerous dinosaur fossils have been discovered here, in over 800 paleontological sites. The area around Dinosaur Quarry, contained within the Monument area, has officially been designated an International Dark Sky Park.
Where Is It?
The Yampa River Preserve is located in the Yampa River Valley, about 17 miles west of Steamboat Springs and 4 miles east of Hayden. It lies on the eastern edge of the Valley’s floodplain.
Address: 17 miles west of Steamboat Springs, CO
Season: Year round