|MEETING PLACE:||OARS/ Don Hatch Warehouse – 221 North 400 East, Vernal, Utah|
|MEETING TIME:||7:00 PM, the evening before your trip|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 3:30–5:30 PM
|RIVER RATING:||Class III-IV|
|RIVER SECTION:||Deerlodge Park-Split Mountain|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 7 years / 12 years at high water levels|
|TRIP LENGTH:||5 days/4 nights|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Oar raft, paddle raft, inflatable kayak|
The Yampa River is the last undammed tributary of the Colorado River system, and its free-flowing waters surge through cauldrons of big, untamed Class III and IV rapids. In its natural state, the Yampa also displays sandy beaches, deep, colorful canyons, habitats for native plants and animals, and other splendid features of a river unfettered by man-made obstructions. Its location in Dinosaur National Monument adds an intriguing archeological element, and side hikes along the river reveal ancient fossils, prehistoric Native American ruins, and petroglyphs carved into cliff walls. All these treasures are encased in a strikingly beautiful river corridor where the tall, vertical walls are a canvas of yellow and red, sometimes dramatically streaked with jet-black coloration known as “desert varnish.”
Save the Colorado
Save the Colorado’s mission is to protect and restore the Colorado River and its tributaries from the source to the sea. Save the Colorado focuses on fighting irresponsible water projects, supporting alternatives to proposed dams and diversions, flight and adapting to climate change, supporting river and fish species restoration, and removing deadbeat dams.
On this special departure, approximately 45% of your trip cost will go to supporting the Save the Colorado 501(c)3 non profit organization.
Join Gary Wockner, award-winning environmental activist and writer, and co-founder of Save the Colorado on this educational adventure. Gary spearheaded the protection and restoration of his local watershed in Fort Collins, CO, and has played an increasing role around Colorado River protection throughout the Southwest U.S.
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
The Day Before Your Trip…
We meet for a pre-trip meeting at 7:00 PM the night before your trip at the OARS/ Don Hatch warehouse in Vernal. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and guides, as well as ask any last-minute questions. Your guides will give you a thorough trip orientation, and then pass out your waterproof river bags so you can pack your belongings that evening.
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 O.A.R.S. 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 cactus is 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 into 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 paddleboat 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 1000 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; you grab your bags and set up your tent while we take care of the kitchen and “living room” – camp chairs and the site for tonight’s campfire (if permitted). This is the perfect time for you to lounge on the beach with that book you have wanted to finish.
Before long you will be savoring pleasing hors d’oeuvres and the beverage of your choice—delicious as these refreshments are, they always taste better after a day on the river! 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 – 5
Your days on the river will begin as the river reflects the colors of sunrise. 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. And once you’ve eaten your fill, you’ll pack up your things as the guides break down camp, then our new day’s adventure begins.
For the first two days of the trip, we watch 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, Cleopatra’s Couch, 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.”
Not to be outdone by the scenery, 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.
Much like the past evenings, we’ll make camp on the river’s edge that likely allows access to a great hiking trial. If our guides don’t arrange a hike, you may want to enjoy a self-guided walk, or perhaps you’d rather just relax and wait for dinner – always a trip highlight, as our day’s adventures stir up a hearty appetite. The group dynamic of our trip is at its best as we gather around the campfire for nighttime conversation and laughter.
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. Or perhaps we’ll hike to Whispering Cave, passing magnificent sandstone formations along the way. In 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.
After a bit of flat water, we pick up speed as we enter 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 Don Hatch/OARS warehouse between 3:30 and 5:30
Included in Your Trip Cost
- Skilled professional guide service
- All meals from lunch on day 1 through lunch on the last day
- 2 waterproof bags to hold your gear for the trip (approximate sealed size: 13” diameter x 25” tall —with a maximum capacity of 2 cubic feet). Your sleeping bag and pad must fit into one bag and your remaining gear will fit into the other bag. Please note: If you rent our gear it will come already packed in one of the two waterproof bags issued to each passenger. Your remaining gear, therefore, must fit in one bag.
- 1 small waterproof bag for camera and other small items you’ll want during the day (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter)
- 2-person tents on a shared basis (there is a $30 charge for a private tent)
- Personal flotation device (PFD) which must be worn at all times on the river in compliance with insurance regulations
- Camp chairs
- Eating utensils, cups and plates
- Highest quality inflatable rafts, helmets and related equipment
- Transfers from the OARS/ Don Hatch warehouse to the river and back
- Wetsuit or Splash Jacket–weather dependent (does not include footwear of any kind, including wetsuit booties). For clients with a high interest in using the inflatable kayaks, we will bring a limited supply of wetsuits. If you have your own, please feel free to bring it with you
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to and from Vernal
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Dinosaur National Monument Entrance Fee
- Sleeping bags and pads (these items may be rented from OARS)
- Insurance of any kind, including travel insurance
- Alcoholic beverages
- Items of a personal nature (an equipment list will be provided)
Available For Rent
Please indicate on your guest registration form whether you want to rent a sleep kit or if you prefer to bring your own.
- Sleep Kit: Can be rented for $40 per person. Sleep kits consist of a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet, pillow and pillowcase.
- Sleeping Pad Only: The pad only may be rented for $15
- 2-Person Tent: We provide 2 person tents. It is assumed you will share this tent with another person. You can (if you prefer) have a tent to yourself for an additional charge of $30 per tent.
Trip Preparation Checklist
☐ Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: Help to protect yourself, your belongings, and your vacation with the purchase of a short-term Travel Protection Plan. A Travel Protection Plan can help cover your non-refundable payments should you have to cancel your trip due to a covered illness or injury. Because we begin working to prepare for your trip upon receipt of your deposit, and may be turning other prospective guests away while holding space for you, there are cancellation fees that will apply regardless of why or when you might need to cancel. The cost for the optional Travel Protection is listed on your trip invoice. All Plan Benefits are administered by Trip Mate, Inc. (in CA & UT, dba Trip Mate Insurance Agency). For a complete description of Trip Mate’s Plan online go to: www.tripmate.com/wpF431Z or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan #F431Z).
☐ Trip Forms (online): Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation e-mail 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.
☐ Reserve flights, shuttles and lodging: Verify with your Adventure Consultant that your trip has met minimum numbers prior to booking flights and/or reserving overnight lodging for the night before and after your trip, if applicable.
☐ Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. Watch at https://www.oars.com/experience/safety/ or call 800-346-6277 to request a free DVD. Please don’t leave home without watching.
☐ Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitation you may have as soon as possible. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip.
☐ Payments: Final payment is due in our office 60 days prior to your trip (refer to your invoice for final payment date). Please let us know if you would like us to automatically charge your credit card on file when final payment is due.
Meeting Place & Time
The day before your trip we will meet at 7:00 PM at the OARS / Don Hatch Warehouse for a pre-trip meeting. Your trip leader will provide a thorough trip orientation and pass out your waterproof bags so you can pack your belongings that evening. The trip leader will also reconfirm the meeting time for the following morning and give you an opportunity to ask any last-minute questions.
Getting to OARS / Don Hatch Warehouse
- From Salt Lake City, Utah (3.5 hours, approximately 173 miles) east to Vernal. As you approach from the west on US-40, turn north at the center of Vernal on US-191. Go two blocks and turn right on 200 North. Proceed four blocks to 400 East, turn left and drive two more blocks to get to the warehouse, which is on your left as you pull in.
- From Grand Junction, Colorado (3 hours, 20 minutes, approximately 142 miles); head west on Interstate I-70 to CO-139. Travel 73 miles north to CO-64 and turn left (west) toward Rangely, CO. Continue on CO-64 to Dinosaur then west on US-40 to Vernal. In Vernal, turn right on N 500 E, go two blocks north, then turn left on E 200 N. Turn right on N 400 E after one block into the OARS/ Don Hatch parking lot.
|Mileage and Driving Times to Vernal, UT|
|From Salt Lake City, UT||173 miles (3½ hours)|
|From Grand Junction, CO||142 miles (3 hours)|
|From Denver, CO||329 miles (6 hours)|
|From Moab, UT||221 miles (4 hours)|
|From Helper, UT||105 miles (2½ hours)|
|From Rock Springs, WY||113 miles (2 hours)|
- The easiest airport is in Salt Lake City, which is serviced by most major airlines. You can rent a car at the airport and drive to Vernal, leaving it parked at the OARS/ Don Hatch Warehouse during the trip.
- Boutique Air offers twice daily flights between Salt Lake City and Vernal and daily flights between Denver and Vernal. Check www.boutiqueair.com for current pricing and schedule.
- Redtail Aviation has charter flights from Salt Lake City to Vernal for an estimated cost of $392 per person (price is subject to change). A minimum of two passengers is required. Please call Redtail Aviation for more information: (800) 842-9251.
By Rental Car
- There are many rental car options at the Salt Lake City airport and it is often more convenient to rent a car at the airport and return it after your trip. This allows you the flexibility to visit surrounding areas and sometimes is more economical than renting a vehicle one way.
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car is located at the Vernal Airport. Please call them directly at (435) 781-3008 for pricing and location hours as they are subject to change.
- If you’re travelling with a group, you can charter a van from Wilkins Bus Lines. Call Todd at (435) 828-6660. You can also try Moab Luxury Coach (435) 940-4212. We recommend you make your reservations well in advance.
By Bus or Train
- Greyhound services Vernal. There is one daily bus trip between Vernal and Salt Lake City. Amtrak services Salt Lake City and Helper, Utah.
After Your Trip
On the final day of your river adventure, you will be returned to the OARS/ Don Hatch Warehouse. You should arrive back by approximately 3:30-5:30 PM.
Pre- and Post-Trip Accommodations
We recommend that you make reservations well in advance in order to guarantee lodging. (Pre- and post-trip lodging is not included in the trip cost).
- Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Naples Vernal* 435-781-8141
*Please mention you are an OARS / Don Hatch guest to receive a special discounted room rate
- The Marriott (435) 781-9000
- Best Western Antlers Motel (435) 789-1202
- Holiday Inn Express (435) 789-4654
- Comfort Inn (435) 789-6066
Other Camping Options
On our Yampa River trips, we bring oar rafts, and with sufficient interest, an inflatable kayak and/or paddle raft. Oar rafts carry our camp gear along with 2-4 passengers and are rowed by our guides using a long pair of oars. Inflatable kayaks are 1- and 2-person boats that get you up close and personal with the rapids of the Yampa. Paddle rafts carry 4-8 passengers, each of whom wield a single-bladed paddle, working together to propel the raft downstream under the direction of your guide.
The Yampa’s high-water season is short but sweet—from May to mid-July, snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains thunders down through this deep gorge, creating powerful Class III-IV rapids. This is some of the most exciting whitewater of any river trip in Colorado, thrilling boaters with several major rapids and many smaller waves and ripples. Later in the Yampa’s season, lower water creates different, but often as exciting water dynamics. Challenging as the whitewater is, first-time rafters and children as young as seven (12 years old in higher-water periods) will have no problem running the Yampa.
After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Upon arrival, our first task is to unload the boats using a bag line of crew and passengers to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night. On the first night in camp, a crew member will give a demonstration on setting up a tent, which you’ll see is quick and easy. 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 dinner is being prepared by the guides, hors d’oeuvres will be served and you will have 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 will let you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit and cold cereal are ready on the hors d’oeuvres table. 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 is served, the entire camp will be broken down and packing will be completed. The gear will then be loaded onto the boats and we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.
The meals we serve are hearty and delicious, complete with fresh ingredients and a variety of foods. A typical morning on a multi-day trip might start with French toast, bacon, fruit, orange juice, and coffee or tea. Lunch might be a delicious spread of cold cuts and cheeses with several types of bread, or pitas stuffed with veggies and hummus. There are always cookies and a cooling drink to top it off. At dinner, our guides’ cooking skills truly shine—sizzling steaks or salmon, chicken enchiladas, and delicious pasta dishes are all part of their repertoire. Dinner generally includes a salad, and desserts are frequent. Hors d’oeuvres are a pleasant surprise before many meals.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we should consider in planning your trip. If you have additional food allergies or necessary restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs. However, there may be an additional supplemental menu fee ranging from $5-20 per person per day to cover our increased costs.
Beyond our standard menu, we can provide options for vegetarian, vegan and many allergy-restricted diets without applying a fee. However, we cannot always provide the same diversity or sophistication for restricted diets as we do for our regular menu.
Due to the constraints of cooking for a large group, availability of ingredients in remote locations and limited packing space, we are often unable to cater to dietary preferences (likes or dislikes).
Beverages / Alcohol
We provide fresh water and an assortment of soft drinks, including sodas, sparkling water, fruit juices and lemonade. Commercial outfitters may not provide any type of alcohol for their guests. You may bring your own supply of beer, wine or liquor in non-glass containers. If you choose to bring your own drinks (other than what we provide) or alcoholic beverages, please let us know in advance, ideally at the pre-trip meeting. For your safety and the safety of others, alcoholic beverages are limited to camp.
Some beers (3.2% alcohol by weight) are available in grocery stores. For other beer, wine and liquor you will need to go to the Utah State Liquor Store. The hours are 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM Monday – Saturday in the spring and 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM Monday – Saturday in the summer. They are closed on Sundays and holidays, including Pioneer Day (June 24). For further information and a list of what beverages are available please check their web site: https://abc.utah.gov/products/index.html. We also typically will make a brief stop at a liquor store in Colorado on our way to the put-in (the store is closed on Sundays).
We are obligated to adhere to the regulations established by the managing agency with jurisdiction over the area in which our trip operates. Use of marijuana on federal lands, whether it be medicinal or recreational, is illegal and therefore we ask that you refrain from bringing it with you on your OARS trip.
We carry sufficient drinking water along with us to provide for your needs throughout the trip. Water jugs are accessible in camp, at lunch time and before hikes for filling personal water bottles. In some cases, we will re-supply water jugs with water filtered through a purification system we provide. (No iodine is used in the purification process.)
One highlight of the Dinosaur area is that the river’s currents and water levels allow us to bring a wide variety of boats. That means that you may experience every vessel we have to offer, conditions permitting! Please indicate any boat preference on your guest registration form in the field for listing your expectations.
We do our best to accommodate the requests of all of our guests. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers should they have the same interests. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly what we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip. The following boats may be a part of your Dinosaur area experience:
- Oar Raft—The OARS flagship, oar rafts carry the bulk of the gear on most of our multi-day adventures. Your guide pilots with long oars from a center-mounted aluminum frame. Ample deck space allows for lounging in calm stretches, sturdy weight and width give your guide confidence to hit the big waves head-on. (Three to five passengers)
- Paddle Raft—The sportiest of crafts we put on the water, everybody handles a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the rear. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and team work begets success. A thrilling way to brave the rapids! A trip may require a minimum of 13 total participants for a paddle raft to be made available. Helmets required. (Four to eight passengers)
- Paddle Raft with Oar Assist —The most agile of any boat in the OARS fleet, your guide powers the raft with two hefty oars on a rear-mounted frame, while the crew wields single blade paddles up front for added horse-power. Helmets required. (Four to eight passengers)
- Inflatable Kayak—Also known as Duckies, inflatable kayaks float low in the water, putting you in touch with the pull of the current and splash of every wave. On most trips, double and single inflatable kayaks are available, depending on group size. 12 years is the minimum age in Class III rapids, 7 years for Class II rapids. Helmets required. Ask an Adventure Consultant about this option, as it is not available on every trip. (One or two paddlers)
- Stand up Paddleboard (SUP)—Rigid like a surfboard, but inflatable like a raft, stand up paddleboards are 10-feet long and surprisingly stable at close to three-feet wide. Hop on a SUP to turn stretches of calm, flat water into an active adventure! (Fun for one paddler at a time)
Hiking / Side Creek Exploration
Each day varies, but on an average you’ll spend 4-6 hours a day on the boats. The rest of the time will be spent hiking and exploring, eating, or just relaxing in camp. While we generally plan at least three guided hikes on each trip, there is ample opportunity for the curious to explore the area at length. Please let your trip leader know if you are an avid hiker and remember to bring extra water bottles and good shoes. Remember however, that all hikes are optional and you can choose to lie on the beach and take in a few tanning rays or read a book instead.
Fishing is permitted on the Yampa River, but be advised that water clarity is not great in Dinosaur National Monument. Fishing is best in Utah below the confluence with the Green River at Jones Hole. You can obtain a Utah fishing license at www.wildlife.utah.gov/fishing/ or at the Vernal Wal-Mart (435) 789-9784, which is a 5-minute drive from the OARS warehouse. If you would like to fish while still in Colorado, you can obtain a Colorado fishing license at www.wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/. You need to bring your own fishing gear. Please bring your rod in a protective hard case.
The Portable Toilet
While the idea of a river trip is appealing to most people, many are inhibited or reluctant because of modesty or uncertainty. To minimize our impacts, we carry out all solid human waste and use a portable toilet system that is set up each day at camp in a secluded location a discrete distance from tent sites. It is essentially a toilet without plumbing and is available from the time you pull into camp each afternoon until you leave camp the next day. Toilet paper and a convenient hand-washing station are provided.
We also carry a small container called the “day tripper” that can be easily accessed during the day should the need arise. It is a personal disposable toilet, which includes an odor-proof transport bag, chemical solidifier and odor eliminator, toilet paper and an oversized hand wipe.
On popular stretches of wilderness rivers, the common refrain is “dilution is the solution to pollution.” We practice this approach by urinating in the river during the day. For use in camp at night we provide pee buckets so that urination can occur in a secluded location and then be dumped into the current where it will be carried downstream.
Bathing is allowed in the Yampa River, but must be done with biodegradable soap. It is not, however, allowed in any of the side streams that feed into the river. If you plan to bring soap, we recommend Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’s, which can be purchased in most stores that have a camping section. Disposable anti-bacterial towelettes (Coleman Swash Cloths, baby wipes, etc.) are good alternatives to submersion in the river and are especially convenient for spring and fall trips.
For Women Only
Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. You can use sandwich-sized Ziploc baggies during the day to store feminine products while you are on the river or hiking, and you can then discretely dispose of the baggies when you reach camp. When possible, we recommend o.b.® tampons, which are 1/3 the size of regular tampons, tuck discreetly into pockets and have less paper wrapping. If you use pads, be sure to bring extras. Many women suggest bringing a small supply of baby wipes. We provide some feminine products on most trips for emergencies.
We provide a small waterproof bag (17” tall x 9” diameter—approximate sealed size) to hold your camera and other items you might need during the day. While these bags are designed to be waterproof, you may wish to place your camera in a zip-lock plastic bag or waterproof casing for additional protection. We also strongly recommend you take out a rider on your homeowner’s policy to cover your camera—especially if it’s fine equipment. Make sure to bring additional memory cards, batteries and any other extras you will need. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option.
Electronics & Technology
The use of electronic devices, especially music players, on your trip may represent an intrusion into the wilderness experience of your fellow guests. We ask that you please be mindful of the impacts to others and respect the wilderness nature of the trip. Please bring headphones if you intend to listen to music during the trip.
Many of our guests travel with their smartphone even though there is no cell service. On a trip like this, there is always the risk of water damage to smartphones and other electronic devices, even when they are stowed in a dry bag. If you intend to take your phone with you on the river, consider investing in a small, waterproof container just for your phone.
We are not able to provide a power source for recharging devices. To keep cameras, phones, GPS and other devices working you may need spare batteries or portable power. Options include compact portable solar panels that can recharge devices directly, portable power banks that store power, or a combo unit that can be charged before the trip and recharged with a built-in solar panel.
Once you are on the river there is limited communication with the “outside world.” Cell phone service is not available. Our guides carry satellite phones which are strictly used to call out in case of an emergency situation on the river. They can call out, but we cannot call them. Periodically the trip leader will check in with our office. If you have someone that needs to contact you about an emergency at home, they should call our office (800-346-6277). If possible, we will relay the message to you. Keep in mind, however, it could be several days or longer before the message actually reaches you. For your family at home you should define for them what you consider an emergency and provide them with instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your vacation.
You may want to check one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast. We recommend the following website: www.wunderground.com for weather in Vernal, UT.
Average Air and Water Temperatures
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F|
Water Levels & Temperature
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. The Green also will spike in the spring and early summer as the controlling agency at Flaming Gorge Dam releases water to make room for inflow. Peak releases from Flaming Gorge on the Green and peak snowmelt run-off on the Yampa usually occurs between mid-May and mid-June, but can vary widely from early May and into July. 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. In reality the water is quite cold even in the summer, but lower flows and warmer air temperatures mitigate the risk of hypothermia.
Our primary goal is for you to have an enjoyable experience. The nature of the trip is such that it involves some physical exertion and potential exposure to the elements, including cold water, heat, sun, wind and rain. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight or lack conditioning can endanger themselves, other guests and the guides. Please consult your doctor if you have medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure. In general, trip participants must be able to:
- Wear our Type V Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches)
- Climb on and off the boats multiple times each day
- Paddle or hold on to the boat while navigating whitewater rapids
- Navigate uneven terrain in camp and on hikes
- Carry your own dry bags (20 – 30 lbs) from the boats to your camping location and back
- Self-rescue by swimming to a boat or to shore in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
- Self-rescue by climbing into a boat with the help of another person in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
Due to the physical nature of this trip, we highly recommend that you engage in regular exercise for at least three months prior to departure to ensure preparedness. No gym membership required! Simple exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats go a long way to improving core fitness. Start with these exercises and do three sets of ten repetitions each, three to four times per week. Aerobic training is also easy to accomplish without expensive equipment. Take 30 – 40 minutes two to three times a week and go for a brisk walk, easy jog or bike ride around town. If you have access to a pool, lake or the ocean, swimming is obviously an ideal choice for aerobic exercise. It provides a full-body work-out and is training that may come in handy in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid. It is important to push yourself in the months leading up to your trip by increasing your strength training repetitions and the pace of your aerobic training. Getting in shape will certainly add to your enjoyment of the trip.
Packing for Your Trip
During the day—Start with a swimsuit and/or swim trunks and synthetic or merino wool shirt as a base layer. Additional layers for sun protection or insulation can be added and subtracted depending on the weather, temperature and how wet you’re getting in the rapids.
In camp—When the weather is warm, lightweight cotton pants/skirt or shorts and shirt make great camp wear. Anytime the forecast calls for cool evenings and cold nights, a dry set of long underwear is the perfect base layer under long pants and a fleece sweater.
During the day—The best choice is an amphibious shoe that drains water, protects your toes and won’t come off in swirling current. A retired pair of athletic shoes can work well, too. Sport sandals with a heel strap are a good option, especially on rivers with sandy beaches. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco® at www.chacos.com, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.
In camp—We recommend wearing shoes in camp due to risk of kicking a rock buried in the sand or stepping on a sharp stick. The athletic shoes or light hikers you bring for hiking can double as your camp shoes. It’s nice to put on dry socks and shoes after a day on the water. Flip flops or slip-on sandals are OK for wearing in camp only. Please note: If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!
During the day – Wide-brimmed hats are a good choice for sun protection. Ball caps are also useful since they fit under helmets, which are required attire when paddling our whitewater rivers.
In camp – When the weather is cool or cold, you’ll want a beanie-style hat to wear in camp. They are the perfect remedy for bed-head as you rise from your sleeping bag to secure your morning cup of coffee or tea, or for retaining warmth in the evening hours after the sun sets.
To Avoid Being Cold
Synthetic or merino wool long underwear is a must-have on river trips. It can be worn under shorts, rain gear, T-shirts, etc., then stripped off when the chill of the morning has worn off. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet (which can happen easily), dries quickly, and it’s compact enough to be stuffed into your small waterproof bag or daypack after you take it off. It can be layered under your waterproof rain jacket and pants. In cooler weather a rain jacket and pants work better than a wetsuit, because the jacket and pants can be put on when it’s cold, or when you’re going through whitewater, then easily taken off when the sun comes out and it’s hot. Be aware that cotton items, once wet, do not insulate; only synthetic and wool materials will keep you warm during cool, wet weather.
Something warm for your top & bottom: You need to be prepared for inclement weather. Bring a good fleece or wool top and bottom, along with a warm hat and gloves. You’ll want to double up on your base layers so that you’ll have a set to wear in the boat and a set of warm, dry clothes for camp.
May and early-June Trips: These are surely some of the most beautiful months to be on the Yampa river, but they can also produce some surprisingly chilly times. During the early spring, the sun is not far enough north in the sky for its warming rays to reach down into the river canyon for as many hours a day as it does in the summer. This means more shady areas, fewer sunny ones. Therefore, when you are splashed (drenched) going through the rapids and you’re in a shady area, you will get very cold unless you are prepared.
Rain gear protects you from rain, wind and the splash of the rapids. It is one of the essential items that all passengers should have no matter what time of year you are traveling. Look for jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, not just water resistant. A hooded jacket is recommended as well as good secure closures around your head, neck, wrists and ankles. Do not bring a rain poncho as it cannot be worn under your PFD.
Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are a must. In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt is the best method for preventing sunburn on your upper body. Light-weight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs.
Bugs & Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes can be bothersome at times in certain areas on the Yampa, particularly after high water drops. Though this happens at different times every year depending on rainfall and snowpack. It’s a good idea to come prepared with insect repellent. Long sleeved shirts and pants may be desirable at times.
You can either bring your own sleeping bag, pad and ground tarp, or you can rent our sleep kit. If you are purchasing your own bag for the trip, keep in mind that a synthetic-fill bag rated to 20°F (the normal range for an all-around, “three-season” bag) is recommended for early and late season trips.
Suggested Packing List
Equipment and Personal Items:
☐ Sleeping bag, pad, sheet liner, small pillow, 5×7-foot tarp. Sleep kits including these items may be rented for $40 (for trips in April, May and early-June we suggest a synthetic-fill bag rated to 20°F)
☐ Two 1-liter water bottles: durable and reusable if you have one; an empty soft drink bottle works fine if you don’t
☐ Headlamp or flashlight (consider bringing extra batteries)
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap (consider bringing a spare)
☐ Small, quick-drying towel
☐ Toiletries, including biodegradable soap (such as Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’s)
☐ Sunscreen and lip protection: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher (aerosol sprays not recommended)
☐ Moisturizing lotion or cream
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Personal first aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, moleskin, eye drops, etc.)
☐ Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts
☐ Cash for gratuities
☐ River shoes or sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco® chacos.com)
“Aqua socks” strongly discouraged
☐ Athletic shoes or light hikers: for hikes or in camp
☐ Hiking socks
☐ Long-sleeved shirts: lightweight and light color for sun protection (old dress shirts work well)
☐ Long pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection
☐ Shade hat or visor with securing strap – flexible enough to fit under your helmet
☐ Rain jacket & pants: waterproof (not water resistant) A hooded jacket with secure closures is recommended
☐ Swimsuit / Trunks: 2-piece suits recommended for women. Tankinis are a great option
☐ Shorts: 1-2 pair
☐ T-shirts/tops: 1-2
☐ Synthetic or merino wool long underwear: 1 set top & bottom (light-, mid- or expedition-weight depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Jacket: fleece or down/synthetic fill puffy (depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Camp clothes: comfortable and appropriate for season. Cotton recommended for hot weather trips
Additional Essentials for early season trips:
☐ Wetsuit booties and/or neoprene, wool or synthetic socks (for wearing inside your river shoes)
☐ Fleece top & bottom
☐ Warm hat and gloves: synthetic or wool
☐ Extra set of synthetic or merino wool long underwear top and bottom
☐ Neoprene paddling gloves
☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Sarong: useful for sun protection/changing clothes
☐ Small day pack, waist pack or hydration pack for side hikes
☐ Bathing wipes: pre-moistened disposable towels
☐ Plastic bags: for separating dirty clothes from clean
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Splash jacket and pants
☐ Lightweight cord and clothespins for drying clothes
☐ Sketchbook, notebook and pen, paperback book
☐ Feminine Urinary Device (for women only)
Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore and receive FREE SHIPPING in the U.S. + 15% of your purchase helps provide disadvantaged youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
Packing Your Gear
At the pre-trip meeting each person will be given two large waterproof bags (approximate sealed size: 13” diameter x 25” tall). One bag will be for your clothing and personal items; the other bag will be for your sleeping gear (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet and pillow). These two bags will be your “checked luggage” and will only be accessible in camp. Tents are stowed separately. Please note: if you rent our sleep kit, it will come already packed in one of the 2 waterproof bags issued to each passenger. We also provide a small waterproof bag for day use where you can keep items such as raingear, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, etc. (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter). The bags are cylindrical in shape and pack from the top. Please pack light, and keep in mind that river attire is casual: comfort, convenience and boat space take precedence over style. At the end of the trip, you will return to Vernal with your waterproof bags, where you will be able to unpack your gear before your trip home.
We recommend you take on the river only what’s absolutely necessary. Keeping gear to a minimum insures it will fit into the waterproof bags we supply and reduces unnecessary packing and unpacking in camp. If you do have extra luggage you will need to store it in your vehicle, you may check with the trip leader about storing small items in the OARS/ Don Hatch office.
We recommend that you leave your valuables at home. For personal items like wallets, purses and cell phones, we recommend putting them in a zip-lock bag at the bottom of your waterproof bag with your clothing. You may also check with the trip leader about storing them in the OARS/ Don Hatch office.
If you feel your guides have provided a very special trip for you, you may leave a gratuity with the trip leader to be shared among the crew. This tip is entirely at your discretion, though we recommend a general tipping guideline of anything between 8% and 12% of trip cost. If you plan to tip, remember to bring a personal check or cash—ATMs are hard to find in the backcountry!
In reviewing your statement, you’ll note a $1/person/day donation to the Yampa River Awareness Project of the Friends of the Yampa, a non-profit conservation organization that strives to protect and enhance the environmental and recreational integrity of the Yampa River, its basin, and its tributaries through stewardship, advocacy, partnerships and education. The mission of the Yampa River Awareness Project is to educate the public about the Yampa River, its special attributes, and current water projects and proposals for this river and its surrounding area. One-hundred percent of these funds go directly to the Yampa River Awareness Project and your contribution is tax-deductible. This donation is voluntary and may be removed from your invoice if you choose not to participate. Please notify our office if you would prefer to delete the donation from your balance.
If you enjoyed your trip, consider donating to the O.A.R.S. Foundation. This organization is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the express goal of providing opportunities for young people to experience the magic of the outdoors. Visit www.oarsfoundation.org to learn more about how a tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
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Additional Vernal, UT Travel Planner and Lodging Information
Additional information on Dinosaur National Monument
Terms and Conditions
Reservations and Deposits
A $250/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. The balance is due 60 days prior to departure.
Cancellations and Refunds
If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible. The cancellation fee after you’ve made your deposit can range up to the entire trip cost, based upon the number of days prior to your trip that we receive your cancellation notice. We regret we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies. For this reason, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan (see Travel Protection).
Cancellations 60 days or more prior to your trip earn a full refund less a $100/person fee. Cancellations 59 days or less prior to your trip are not refundable.
If you transfer from one trip to another within the same season, there is a $50/person charge up until 60 days before the trip. Transfers made after this time will be treated as cancellations.
Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying an OARS trip. People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.
For those unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we offer an optional Travel Protection Plan from Trip Mate, Inc. (in CA & UT, dba Trip Mate Insurance Agency) that can help protect you, your travel investment and your belongings. Should you have to cancel your trip due to illness or injury—your own or that of an immediate family member—non-refundable payments may be covered by a travel protection plan (see Cancellations and Refunds). For a complete description of Trip Mate’s Plan online go to: www.tripmate.com/wpF431Z or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan #F431Z). Please Note: Purchase this Plan within 14 days of the date we receive your initial deposit and the exclusion for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions will be waived, provided you are not disabled from travel at the time the plan is purchased.
Acknowledgement of Risk
Everyone is required to sign a standard Acknowledgement of Risk form before the trip, acknowledging awareness that there are inherent risks associated with the trip. However, due to the nature of the activities, a condition of your participation is that you will sign this form and return it to our office before the trip begins. Anyone who refuses to sign the form will not be allowed to participate, and consistent with OARS cancellation policy, there will be no refund of the trip fees at that time.
Responsibility – An Important Notice
O.A.R.S. Canyonlands, Inc. and cooperating agencies act only in the capacity of agent for the participants in all matters relating to transportation and/or all other related travel services, and assume no responsibility however caused for injury, loss or damage to person or property in connection with any service, including but not limited to that resulting directly or indirectly from acts of God, detention, annoyance, delays and expenses arising from quarantine, strikes, theft, pilferage, force majeure, failure of any means of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, civil disturbances, government restrictions or regulations, and discrepancies or change in transit over which it has no control. Reasonable changes in itinerary may be made where deemed advisable for the comfort and well being of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 4 guests), and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts, dories and kayaks do capsize. You could be swept overboard. Your guide will make every attempt to assist, but you must be strong and agile enough to “self-help” and “float-it-out” without further endangering yourself or others. We reserve the right not to accept passengers weighing more than 260 pounds or with a waist/chest size exceeding 56 inches. We may decide, at any time, to exclude any person or group for any reason we feel is related to the safety of our trips. We are experienced at accommodating people with various disabilities. Please give us an opportunity to make you feel welcome. We need to discuss any special requirements ahead of time. On advancement of deposit the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. Prices subject to change without notice.