Yampa River Rafting

4 or 5 Days See dates & prices 4.92 51 reviews
Location Colorado & Utah Adventure Level Moderately Challenging Minimum age 7 (10 - 12 during high water) River Rating Class III-IV (Class III late season) From $1449
Book Now Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

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.

Trip Highlights
  • Exciting Class III-IV whitewater
  • Striking canyons of red, yellow & orange
  • Active trip with hiking & paddling
  • Native American & outlaw history
  • Explore Dinosaur National Monument

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.

Day 1

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

Location

Vernal, UT

Meeting time

7 PM, the evening before your trip

Return

Approximately 3 – 4 PM to Vernal

Trip Map

Dates & Prices

2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
May 28$1,499$1,499
May 30 All Adult$1,499
June 13$1,499$1,499
2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
May 31$1,649$1,649
June 3 Mindfulness$1,849
June 6, 8$1,649$1,649
June 10 All Adult$1,649
June 21 $1,649$1,649
June 24, 27, 28$1,549$1,449
July 1, 7$1,549$1,449
Book Now

Deposit

$400

Additional Costs

• Dinosaur National Monument Entrance Fee
• Sleep Kit $40 | Tent included


*Prices subject to National Park Service review

Ways to Save

To book with one of our special offers, call 1-800-346-6277 or contact us today.

Premier Pricing

Save up to 10% (or more) on most domestic trips when you’re one of the first 4 people to book by March 31st!

Specialty Trips

The Need-to-Know Info

Trip Details

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled professional guide service
  • Catered camping: All meals from lunch on day 1 through lunch on the last day 
  • Expedition equipment, including highest-quality rafts, 2-person shared tent, personal flotation device (PFD), helmet, waterproof bags, camp chair, as well as eating utensils and plates 
  • Transfers from the OARS Warehouse in Vernal to the river and back

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
  • Gratuities

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) °FAir (Night) °FWater °F
May744045-58
June844858-70
July915565-70

Whitewater

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.

  • Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 260 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria.

  • Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us.
  • Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation email for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving within 60 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.

Reservations and Payments

A $400/person deposit is required at the time of booking with final payment due 60 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 days before the departure date will be canceled.

Payments can be made by check, money order, eCheck, wire transfer, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. 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. Your payment is fully refundable for 7 days, less a 3% processing fee, after making a reservation when you reserve a trip 7 days or more prior to the final payment due date.

Cancellations and Refunds

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. 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 that 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. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

Date of CancellationCancellation 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. The remainder of your payment can be transferred to another trip within the same year (or to a credit account for the following year). No refund.
59 days or less before your tripFull fare

Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.

Canceled Trips

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 prior to departure. Do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you have verified with OARS that your trip is confirmed. 

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 the initial deposit amount and any non-refundable 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 cannot 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.

Transfers

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.

National Park Service Authorized Concessioner

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.

For You

You May Also Like

Can’t Decide?

Use our Compare tool to find your perfect Adventure.

Compare Adventures

Select up to 3 trips to compare

Compare