One of the most sought-after whitewater adventures in the world, the OARS Yampa River trip is an unforgettable Colorado rafting adventure for kids, teens, and ever-inquisitive travelers alike.
The Yampa River is the one major tributary in the Colorado River system that runs wild and free, straight to the heart of Dinosaur National Monument. For three months a year (May-July), the Yampa River flows free with fresh, surging run-off from miles above—waters originating from the melting snows and glaciers of the world-famous Colorado Rockies. Easily manageable Class III and IV whitewater rafting flows carry paddlers through colorful canyons of red, yellow, and orange and on into Dinosaur National Monument. A billion years are captured in these canyon walls, along with the remnants of various life forms that existed long before humans. Our pathway through time showcases some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world, ones that have been folded, lifted, and split by eons of geological forces.
What to Expect
Itinerary & Map
Itinerary at a Glance
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Yampa River rafting trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
The Day Before Your Trip
The evening before your trip, we’ll meet for a pre-trip orientation in Vernal, UT. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and trip leader, and ask any last-minute questions.
We’ll begin our adventure with a scenic two-hour drive from Vernal to our put-in at Deerlodge Park, where our boats and the rest of the OARS crew await. After a thorough safety talk, our journey begins. Today, the Yampa meanders through wide-open desert scenery, quite distinctive from the deep canyons that adorn most of the river corridor. Blooming cacti are among the eye-catching desert flora that we’ll enjoy today as we peacefully float down the river, soaking in the sights, sounds, and sensations of our wilderness surroundings.
Our first day on the Yampa generally sets the pace for the remainder of our river trip. Typically, we spend a few hours on the water in the morning, sometimes stopping for a great hike or a refreshing swim. Come lunchtime, we pull over to a sandy beach and enjoy a delicious picnic. After feasting and relaxing on the beach (and perhaps a game of Frisbee or horseshoes), we get back in our boats and watch the desert panoramas slowly develop as we continue down the river. Today’s whitewater is relatively mild, but over the course of the next few days, the rapids become bigger and more frequent – perfect for trying out the paddle boat and inflatable kayak!
As we enter the Yampa River canyon, we leave the flatter desert behind, entering a stunning world where rock walls loom above us, rising to heights of 1,000 feet. The whitewater also intensifies as the canyon begins; today we’ll be challenged with fun class II-III whitewater.
Our guides might lead a hike to Stubs Cabin, an old cattle rustler homestead dating back to the early 1900s. One hundred years ago, this isolated canyon was used as a hideout by stealthy old-western outlaws, and several abandoned cabins along the river remind us of this shadier side of the Yampa’s cowboy history.
Mid- to late afternoon, we stop and make camp. Before long, you will be savoring hors d’oeuvres and the beverage of your choice. Nap, take an exploratory hike, or just sit back and laugh with friends and family as we prepare dinner. After another satisfying feast, the evening is yours to spend however you wish. Maybe music, stories, or jokes will bring us together tonight; maybe the popping of the fire, the whisper of the river, and the clarity of the big, star-filled sky will encourage silent reflection on the amazing wilderness that is, for now, our home.
Days 2 – 3 or 4 (Depending on trip length)
Your days begin with the morning light illuminating the canyon walls with a warm glow. Fresh coffee and tea are waiting for you when you get up; grab a cup, sit back, and take in the glory of the awakening wilderness.
For the first two days of the trip, the magnificent canyon walls and striking sandstone formations rise up around us, becoming bigger and bolder around every river bend. On the third day, the fascinating geology of this canyon reaches its apex as we float past some of the most astounding rock marvels of all: Grand Overhang and Tiger Wall. The latter is perhaps the most renowned feature of the Yampa River—a sheer cliff wall of pale sandstone, dramatically streaked with jet-black stripes of manganese oxide, or “desert varnish.”
The whitewater is also at its best in this area as we run the well-known Warm Springs Rapid. A relatively new rapid, Warm Springs was formed in 1965 when heavy side canyon floods strew boulders across the river, creating the Yampa’s biggest whitewater.
Reaching the confluence with the Green River, we bid farewell to the Yampa but not to the beauty and whitewater excitement it offered us—both flourish as we continue down the mighty Green.
Past the confluence, we round Steamboat Rock and continue into Echo Park. Here we may stop to visit the intriguing Fremont rock art near the side of the river. Upon reaching Whirlpool Canyon, we might take the longest hike of our trip, following beautiful Jones Hole Creek to amazingly well-preserved panels of pictographs and petroglyphs.
Day 4 or 5 (Depending on trip length)
After a bit of flat water, we pick up speed in Split Mountain Canyon, where the river’s gradient becomes considerably steeper. Four major rapids deliver plenty of whitewater excitement during our last day on the river. Reaching our take-out point at Split Mountain, we’ll take a short ride back to Vernal, returning to the OARS Warehouse late afternoon.
Meeting Time & Place
7 PM, the evening before your trip
Approximately 3 – 4 PM to Vernal
Dates & Prices
Save $100 on 2024 departures when you’re one of the first to book by March 31 and request “Premier Pricing” over the phone.
|2024 Departures||Adult Price||Youth Price|
|May 30 All Adult||$1,499||–|
|2024 Departures||Adult Price||Youth Price|
|May 13, 17, 19||$1,549||$1,449|
|May 25 Geology||$1,749||$1,749|
|June 3 Mindfulness||$1,849||–|
|June 6, 8||$1,649||$1,649|
|June 10 All Adult||$1,649||–|
|June 24, 27, 28||$1,549||$1,449|
|July 1, 7||$1,549||$1,449|
• Dinosaur National Monument Entrance Fee
• Sleep Kit $40 | Tent included
*Prices subject to National Park Service review
Join OARS for an in-depth exploration of the wonders of the evolution of the Earth on the Yampa River
The Yampa River is the stunning backdrop for rafting, meditation, and movement with mindfulness meditation teacher Heidi Bourne
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to and from Vernal
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Dinosaur National Monument Entrance Fee
- Sleep kit: sleeping bag, pillow & a deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad (available for rent)
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
- Alcoholic beverages
The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip.
Learn more about the OARS Fleet and the boats that may be a part of your experience: Oar raft, paddle raft (generally available on trips with 9 or more participants), inflatable kayak, and SUP.
After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Our first task is to unload the boats using a fire line of crew and guests to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night.
While you put up your tent, the guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.
As guides prepare dinner, hors d’oeuvres are served. This is an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.
In the morning, the first wake-up call lets you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit, and cold cereal are ready. You can fill your mug and grab a bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast. After breakfast, the entire camp is broken down and packed up. Once the guides have all of the gear loaded back onto the boats, we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.
More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.
Average Air & Water Temperatures
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F|
The Yampa is one of the West’s last wild rivers, with no major reservoirs blocking its path from the highlands of northwestern Colorado to its confluence with the Green River near the Utah border. The Yampa sees a natural spike of high water when mountain snow is melting in the spring and early summer, then recedes to a much more modest flow in mid- to late-summer.
During the high water window, typically May to July, the Yampa offers some of the most exciting whitewater of any river trip in Colorado, thrilling boaters with several major Class III-IV rapids and many smaller waves and ripples (Class III late season). High-water trips equate to a more intense whitewater experience and a high level of physical fitness is recommended. Water temperatures are coldest during the high water period, and rain gear and warm synthetic clothing will be required.
Later in the Yampa’s season, lower water creates different, but often equally exciting water dynamics. In reality, the water is still quite cold even in the summer, but lower flows and warmer air temperatures mitigate the risk of hypothermia.
The Yampa is ideal for first-time rafters and children as young as seven (12 years old in higher-water periods) will have no problem running the Yampa.
Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.
Reservations and Deposits
A $400/person deposit is required at the time of booking. Deposits may be made by check, money order, or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. Final payment is due 60 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.
Cancellations and Refunds
Your deposit is fully refundable, less a 3% processing fee, for 7 days after you book when you submit a deposit 7 days or more before the final payment due date.
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation Fee|
|180 or more days before your trip||$50/person|
|179 – 90 days before your trip||$100/person|
|89 – 60 days before your trip||$200/person|
|59 days or less before your trip||Full Fare|
Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.
OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 45 days before departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.
If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.
If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same season, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $25/person fee up until 90 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 89 days or less before departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.
O.A.R.S. Canyonlands, Inc. is an authorized concessioner of Dinosaur National Monument.
Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement
We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the Yampa River between Deerlodge Park and Split Mountain Campground, we acknowledge the territories of the Ute.
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