Yampa River History

Yampa River Rafting History

Yampa River History Fun Facts:

  • River: The Yampa River

  • Rapid Rating: Class III-V(depending on Water Levels)

  • Put in: Deerlodge Park (2 hour drive east of Vernal, Utah)

  • Take-out location: Split Mountain Campground (1 hour east of Vernal, Utah)

  • River Miles: 72 Miles

  • Number of rapids: 16

  • First to run the Yampa River : Nathaniel Galloway and his son Parley in 1909. (John Wesley Powell rowed about 2 miles up the Yampa in 1869.)

More Yampa River Rafting Information

Map of the Yampa River


Yampa River HistoryThe Yampa River, located in the heart of the Dinosaur National Monument on the Eastern end of the Uinta Mountain Range. Beginning in Northwestern Colorado, the Yampa is one of the last free-flowing tributaries (The Stagecoach reservoir near Steamboat and The Elk head Reservoir are usually spilling which makes the Yampa free-flowing.) to the Colorado River system and is featured in National Geographic's, "Wild and Scenic Rivers" Book. The Yampa plant (Perideridia gairdneri) or, "wild carrot," was considered a food plant for many of the Native Americans who lived in this area. Native Americans, prospectors, outlaws, ranchers and early river runners make the history of this canyon interesting.


The geology of the Yampa Canyon begins with layers of sandstones, limestones and shales, giving the viewer a unique "look back" at the rising and dropping of an ancient sea. As you travel further into the canyon the sheer walls of the Weber Sandstone become predominant. As the river winds its way through a maze of walls sculpted by windblown sand, walls, such as the 1,000' high Grand Overhang and the stripes of the Tiger Wall will leave the viewer in awe.

Yampa River HistoryOnce you leave the Yampa Canyon and join the Green River, entering into Echo Park, the Mitten Park Fault will blow the viewer away. Just after Mitten Park the river enters into Whirlpool Canyon the billion-year-old Uinta Mountain Group formation and the Unique Sea Stacks enter into the geologic picture. Following a leisurely float through Island Park and the Morrison Formation (where dinosaur bones are found), the river makes a dramatic cut right through the Split Mountain Anticline.

Human History

Human history in this region dates back to about 8,000 years ago and the time of the Paleo Indian. The Paleo Indians hunted large game animals like the Mammoth and the Bison with arrows. More recently the Fremont Indians lived in this area. They were hunter-gatherers living off of nuts, berries, seeds, deer and big horn sheep. The Fremont left clues about their mysterious history carved and painted into the canyon walls.

Trappers made their way into these river canyons to trap beaver in the 1820's and 1830's. One trapper, Dennis Julien, left many inscriptions up the entire Green River including one in Whirlpool Canyon dated 1838. As early as the 1870's, prospectors began mining for gold in places like Harding Hole. Many ranchers, like the Mantles and the Ruples, tried hard to make a life here. One of the most colorful characters of this time period was hermit, Patrick Lynch. Following service in the Civil War, Pat moved to this area where he lived in many caves as a hermit until his death in 1917. He was buried in Lily Park (Deer Lodge Park).

River running for fun started around the late 1920's. In 1928 a group from the Denver Post had a disastrous low water trip, losing one boat and hiking out at the Mantle Ranch. In the 1930's Bus and Alton Hatch explored the river and eventually started commercial boating trips in 1931. The biggest surprise for river runners came in 1965 after about 17 days of rain caused a huge debris flow to completely dam the river, creating a new rapid-Warm Springs-which is still one of the most exciting rapids today.

Books about the Yampa River

  • Dinosaur River Guide ~ Bill Belknap

  • Exploring the Fremont ~ David Madse

  • If We Had a Boat: Green River Runners & Explorers ~ Roy Webb

  • Legacy on Stone: Rock Art of the Colorado Plateau and Four Corners Region ~ Sally J. Cole