The Yampa River originates high in the Flat Tops near Yampa, Colorado, not far from Steamboat Springs. It’s Colorado’s longest free-flowing, undammed rivers, and a popular place for longer rafting trips.
At Dinosaur, it cuts through large sandstone canyons, a breathtaking site. It also meets up with the Green River there, where they flow together into Utah before emptying into the Colorado River. Rafting trips by Dinosaur are usually multi-day and take you through the heart of Dinosaur National Monument and its amazing natural landmarks.
Rafting Trips on the Yampa River
The rafting trips on the Yampa River are usually simpler floats often combined with camping. The western plateau scenery is perfect for a peaceful day of wilderness gazing from your peaceful boat ride.
Whitewater Rafting Difficulty: As a long, flowing waterway, the Yampa River is not difficult. For the most part, the river is filled with Class II – III rapids, for relaxed whitewater rafting and tubing. In peak season, there is a section of challenging Class IV -V in the Cross Mountain Gorge, which is only suitable for experienced rafters.
Dinosaur National Monument: The multi-day trips out near Dinosaur usually meet up in Vernal, Utah, the largest town around. They experience a slew of Class III and IV rapids during their peak season from May through July.
Downtown Steamboat Springs: Short little half day floats happen around downtown Steamboat Springs from May to early June you catch some Class II and III rapids.
From Colorado to Utah, here are the most popular whitewater rafting sections of the Yampa River:
Steamboat To Craig
The first popular whitewater section of the Yampa river is made up of 65 miles of Class II and III rapids. The route begins in Steamboat Springs, with river access typically putting boaters in at Shield Drive or Little Toots Park. After 25 miles of mostly public property, the first take-out opportunity is at the Hayden Pump Station. From here, most rafters continue their journey to Craig, ending at the Yampa Valley Golf Course, Loudy Simpson Park, or South Beach access points.
Rafting this route in its entirety is highly dependent on water levels, due to low bridges and diversion dams. Overall, the ride is very smooth, with the most challenging section being the Steamboat Whitewater Park at the beginning of the journey.
Little Yampa Canyon / Juniper Canyon
The next 50 miles of the Yampa river provide remote and playful whitewater rapids. This section starts by cutting through the Little Yampa Canyon 32 miles towards the Duffy Mountain access point. This is a popular stop for multi-day rafting trips, with the diversion dam and Class III+ rapids of Juniper Canyon awaiting downstream in the morning. From there, large bouts of continuous Class II rapids flow to the Maybell Bridge access at the end of the section.
Maybell to Cross Mountain
For the most part, the only people who are lucky enough to raft from Maybell to Cross Mountain on the Yampa River are in the midst of a five or six day whitewater trip. This remote section covers 29 miles of Class II whitewater with ample opportunity for wildlife viewing and star gazing.
Cross Mountain Gorge
Cross Mountain Gorge is the most challenging and infamous section of the Yampa River. After a nice long float, the boulder field and sharp canyon walls of Cross Mountain Gorge could terrify an unsuspecting rider. This is the thirteen mile section of the river that separates the pros from the wannabes, with some of the most technical Class IV – V rapids in Colorado. After, Cross Mountain Gorge rafters can take-out at the Deerlodge Park access or continue westward overnight.
Yampa Canyon / Dinosaur National Monument
Colorado’s last popular section of the Yampa River stretches through the towering sandstone walls of Dinosaur National Monument. The 46 miles stretch is mainly smooth sailing among occasional Class II and III rapids. Typically, rafters will take between 3 and 5 days to raft and camp in this breathtaking isolated wilderness area.
Yampa River Rafting Guides
- Arkansas Valley Adventures – 4 day trip, 3 nights, meets in Steamboat Springs.
- Bucking Rangers Outfitters – 1.5 trips in downtown Steamboat Springs.
- Holiday River Expeditions – 4 and 5 day trips, meets in Vernal, UT.
- Dinosaur River Expeditions – 3 to 5 day trips, meets in Vernal, UT.
- OARS – 4 and 5 day trips, meets in Vernal, UT.
Activities near the Yampa River
At its start, Yampa River passes through Steamboat Springs, which makes for a great place to visit in any season. Along its route the river contains many recreational facilities for the Yampa River State Park. Moving westward to the Utah border, Dinosaur National Monument has a visitor center, campgrounds and hiking trails. The monument gives visitors a chance to get a closer look at the fossils and history within the canyon walls.
Nearby Towns: (east to west)
Season: May t0 July
Class: Up to II-IV