With a short season and your odds stacked as high as a piece of paper, the Yampa is a coveted stretch of desert multi-day bliss. As the snow piled up in January and the final days were upon us to make our lottery elections, I held out hope.

Hope was dashed…obviously. While my luck is on par with most mortals, I can click on shit really fast. Cancellation day was a glorious day, and I screamed to my wife who quickly reminded me the date I got was over Mother’s Day. Spoiler alert: I went anyway, and she’s still with me.

Projections were calling for 22K+ flows but we ended up with 17.5k at launch. The river was close to the banks, but remained within them, and the fleet was slowly assembled.

We amassed 18 people and 11 boats, anticipating, actually hoping for, some big water Yampa action. Were we disappointed to only get 17.5k? At the time yes, but that would change in short order and as soon as we entered the canyon, our speed picked up and stayed above 6mph for the duration.

Uneventful day one. Day two began with a solid plan, though there were some that deviated immediately from that plan and if you notice below, Tepee hole/wave was huge. Someone hit it, then they went swimming, for awhile. Cold and exhausted we retrieved our companions, though they were to never recover their shoes again. The wave was that big ↓.

When we did make it down to Harding, the group was calmly and evenly divided. Half were with the fun captain, while the other half went to the Wagon Wheel Overlook and took some photos.

The Yampa mystique is based upon not only its short and fleeting season, but it’s gently kneaded sandstone walls that carry on for miles. Soft swooping overhangs streaked in desert varnish are around every corner. While not characterized by it’s continuous rapids or requiring technical expertise, she does have a few teeth. Notably Tepee (at least for our swimmers), Big Joe, and the one that everyone remembers, Warm Springs.

You must marvel at the Grand Overhang before arriving at Tiger Wall, where all passing boaters must pay their homage. Hoping it brings you fortune as you hear the thunderous roar not far below…

One flip and recovery later (well executed and only a footnote of this trip) we continued on. As we rode a wave of historic snowmelt towards Lake Powell we were afforded the time to stop and admire the sites and beauty. With oars in the water we could cover the needed mileage in only a few hours each day.

Split Mountain was fun, but too much fun was had by this guy. Happy to report that I was able to flip the fully loaded 16ft raft on an unnamed, or otherwise unnotably feature. With the help of the team who chased the boat for nearly 4 miles, it was finally corralled and righted midstream.

Overall a great success and a trip that had all the attributes you look for. Good people, athletic pursuits (hiking), good food, costumes, calculated carnage, and amazing desert sunsets.


  1. Larry Williams

    Nate. I was surfing the internet and came across your site. I am glad to be able to share the Yampa with you. Thanks for the invite and hopefully I will get a permit or two and return the favor. Awesome pics!

    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *