|MEETING PLACE:||OARS Warehouse – 221 North 400 East, Vernal, Utah|
|MEETING TIME:||7:00 PM, the evening before your trip|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 3:00–4:00 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:||4 days/3 nights or 5 days/4 nights|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Oar raft, Paddle raft, Inflatable kayak|
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 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 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 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 (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. 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 trail. 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 OARS Warehouse between 3:00–4:00 PM.
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; 3318 cu in; 54.4 L). 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; 1081 cu in; 17.7 L)
- 2-person tent
- Personal flotation device (PFD) which must be worn at all times on the river in compliance with insurance regulations
- 12-ounce insulated Klean Kanteen with Café Lid to use for drinks in camp
- Camp chairs
- Eating utensils, cups and plates
- Highest quality inflatable rafts, helmets and related equipment
- Transfers from the OARS 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 & a deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
- Alcoholic beverages
- Items of a personal nature (see suggested packing list below)
*DNM entrance fee is refundable only if a park pass is submitted to your Adventure Consultant (via email, fax or mail) prior to your trip departure.
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 with sheet liner, deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad, ground tarp, pillow and pillowcase
- Sleeping Pad Only: The deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled pad only may be rented for $15
Trip Preparation Checklist
☐ Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: For complete details and to purchase the plan we highly recommend, visit: https://www.oars.com/tpp
☐ 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 and can meet our essential eligibility requirements.
☐ 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 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 the OARS Warehouse
|From Salt Lake City, UT||173 miles (3½ hours)|
|From Grand Junction, CO||142 miles (3 hours)|
|From Helper, UT||105 miles (2½ hours)|
|From Rock Springs, WY||113 miles (2 hours)|
Parking is available at the OARS Warehouse during your river trip. We provide parking from the morning of the trip until the end of the trip.
Overnight parking outside of these hours is not permitted.
RV’s & Trailers: There is enough space at our base to park all kinds of vehicles, including RV’s and trailers. This starts as a grass field and by late June it becomes a dirt parking lot. There is very little shade and no water, sewer or electricity available. There is no camping on site.
If you will be bringing a large recreational vehicle, please let us know in advance so we can plan accordingly. You may leave for the trip and see a totally different parking situation on your return, therefore, we ask that on the morning of your trip you check in at the OARS office upon arrival. Our staff will let you know where to park to prevent your vehicle from being blocked in by cars of guests that are on other trips (cars that won’t be moved for days).
Personal belongings can either be stored in your vehicle or at your hotel so long as the hotel can make this accommodation. We recommend putting your keys, wallet, and/or phone in a zip lock bag in your dry bag. If you are not staying at a hotel and do not have a car, please pack your belongings in a soft duffle like bag that can be packed along with your other belongings during your trip.
We are unable to store any personal belongings that don’t accompany you on the trip.
- Commercial flights are available into Salt Lake City and Vernal, Utah, or Grand Junction, Colorado.
- Redtail Air has charter flights from Salt Lake City to Vernal for an estimated cost of $535 per person (price is subject to change). A minimum of two passengers is required. Please call Redtail 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.
By Taxi or Shuttle
- Vernal City Cab – (435) 790-1212
- A1 Cab – (435) 219-1457
- Basin Day Taxi Service – (435) 414-1779
- Le Bus – (800) 366-0288 or www.lebus.com, charter shuttles from Salt Lake starting around $1,500
After Your Trip
On the final day of your river adventure, you will be returned to the OARS Warehouse. You should arrive back by approximately 3:00-4:00 PM.
You may arrange for your personal vehicle to be shuttled to the take-out as an option to limit time spent in vans or buses with other people. Please contact River Runners Transport to arrange this.
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).
- Dinosaur Inn & Suites* (435) 315-0123
- Holiday Inn Express* (435) 789-4654
- Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Naples Vernal* (435) 781-8141
*Please mention you are an OARS guest to receive a special discounted room rate
Other Camping Options
(No overnight camping is available on the OARS property)
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.
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. The following boats may be a part of your experience:
Oar raft, Paddle raft (generally available on trips with 11 or more participants), Inflatable kayak
Learn more about the boats on your trip at https://www.oars.com/experience/boats/
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 salad, 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. At dinner, our guides’ cooking skills truly shine—sizzling steaks or salmon, chicken enchiladas, and delicious stir-fry 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 food allergies or restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs. However, there may be a supplemental menu fee, ranging from $5-$25 per person per day, to cover any increase in our 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. Similarly, certain allergen-free snack foods are difficult or impossible to source in our locations, so feel free to bring your own favorite snacks to supplement our provisions. Please let your Adventure Consultant know if you intend to do so.
We cannot guarantee that cross-contamination from allergens will not occur during meal prep, and reserve the right to refuse service to anyone as it relates to safety, including the potential for a medical emergency caused by a severe food allergy. Also, due to the constraints of cooking for a large group in a wilderness setting, availability of ingredients or specialty items in remote locations, and limited packing space, we are 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.
Wine and liquor can be purchased at the Utah State Liquor Store. The hours are 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM Monday – Saturday. 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: abc.utah.gov/
OARS is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our guests and for our staff. We ask that smoking of any kind be done away and downwind from other trip participants.
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.)
The opportunity to explore the area will depend on several variables, such as the amount of time spent in the boats (often 4-6 hours per day), the time it may take to break camp in the morning and to reach our next camp in the afternoon, other groups in the area, weather and more. We make every effort to provide guided excursions to nearby points of interest, some of which are brief walks while others are long hikes requiring more planning. The trip leader must consider the overall ability of the group when deciding what hikes to offer. In anticipation of doing some side exploration during your trip, remember to bring a water bottle and lightweight shoes that are comfortable for walking on uneven terrain. All hikes are optional so you can choose to relax by the boats or in camp instead. If you are an avid hiker, please let your Adventure Consultant know prior to your trip so the trip leader is aware.
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. If you are going to fish on your OARS trip you will need to purchase Colorado and/or Utah state fishing licenses for your trip. You will also need to bring your own rod, tackle, and/or bait*.
To choose the correct Colorado state fishing license for you and purchase one online check out https://cpw.state.co.us/ (not required for youth 16 and under).
You can also purchase a three-day, seven-day or Utah annual permit online at www.wildlife.utah.gov (not required for youth 12 and under).
*Fishing rods must be collapsible, and have a hard case. Please tell your guide about your fishing gear at the pre-trip meeting so they can plan adequate storage space. All hooks must be de-barbed in deference to the endangered native fish in the river which must be released immediately if caught. Additionally, if a hook is swallowed, you must cut the line at the mouth. Do not try to dig out a swallowed hook on a native fish. Threatened or endangered species must be released immediately, while invasive species may not be released. To learn more please see the Dinosaur National Monument fishing regulations: https://www.nps.gov/dino/planyourvisit/fishing.htm
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.
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 products while you are on the river or hiking. Used pads or tampons can be disposed of in the trash at lunch or camp. We provide some menstrual 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.
Electronics & Technology
The use of electronic devices, especially music players and flying drones, 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 and leave your drone at home*.
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 case just for your phone.
*The use of drones is prohibited by Dinosaur National Monument on the Yampa River.
We are not able to provide a power source for powering or recharging devices. To keep cameras, phones, GPS, a CPAP 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. Solar panels must be designed to withstand outdoor elements and fit in your dry bag (roll-up or no larger than 12” x 12”). Keep in mind direct sunlight in a river canyon may be limited and even non-existent at camp (mornings and evenings).
Once you are on the river, there is limited communication with the “outside world.” Cell phone service is not available. Our guides carry a satellite communication device for emergency use. They can call out, but we cannot call them. The trip leader will periodically check in with our office. If someone 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 it could be several days before the message actually reaches you. For your family at home, before you depart on your trip you should define what you consider to be an emergency and provide them with instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your vacation.
Wildfires & Smoke
Fire activity frequently impacts the air quality on our trips, and occasionally wildfires may be present in the immediate vicinity of where we’re traveling. Smoke impacts are more likely in the latter-half of the summer season, so those with asthma or other respiratory conditions may wish to steer clear of this time frame. In general, we will not cancel a trip on account of smoky conditions, except in cases of clear danger to life or property. Necessary changes to logistics and/or destination may occur with very short notice as fire conditions are constantly changing. We will do our best to keep you apprised of excessively smoky conditions that can be foreseen for your upcoming trip, but we also encourage you to stay informed about local fire activity: inciweb.nwcg.gov.
Our standard cancellation terms & conditions apply should you choose to cancel due to environmental conditions resulting from a wildfire near to where our trip operates. Please review our Terms & Conditions section in this document, below. Furthermore, we recommend you consider investing in a comprehensive Travel Protection Plan that provides you the ability to “cancel for any reason” should you feel conditions from a nearby wildfire may result in you canceling your reservation.
Our guides do not carry firearms on our trips, and in most cases are prohibited from doing so by the managing agency. As a matter of preference, we ask all our guests to kindly leave your own firearms at home or in your vehicle.
If you require the use of a CPAP machine and intend to bring one with you, be sure to alert your OARS Adventure Consultant prior to your trip to let us know the dimensions of the machine, description of battery(s), and any protective case(s). Travel-sized CPAPs are readily available and often come with a battery kit. You must assess the power needs of your CPAP and bring the battery(s) needed to operate it for each night of your travels. We’re able to accommodate the transportation of your machine and accessories on the trip in metal dry boxes or soft dry bags; however, please understand that despite efforts to protect your equipment we can’t guarantee your machine and accessories won’t suffer water or impact damage and therefore we recommend additional protective case(s) for your machine & accessories.
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 occur 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.
River Runners Responsibility Code
- Read the pre-trip literature and arrive at the meeting place on time.
- Understand the risks: your safety is ultimately your responsibility.
- Treat your fellow guests and guides with respect and courtesy; harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
- Wear clothing and personal protective equipment suitable for the current conditions.
- Listen to and follow the guides’ instructions.
- Abide by the managing agency’s rules.
- No drugs or alcohol prior to, or during, your trip; alcohol is allowed in moderation in camp on overnight trips.
- Minimize your impact on the environment.
- Wear the OARS-issued and properly–fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times when in the boats or swimming. Wear a helmet when required.
- Your children are your responsibility!
Packing for Your Trip
Click on this link for helpful information about packing for your trip: https://www.oars.com/video/pack-river-rafting-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.
Hot Weather Trips
During summer months, conditions on the river may be hot and sunny. These trips require less gear than spring or fall trips, but thoughtful packing is still required. Protection from the sun and heat will be critical to your enjoyment and health while on the river and during side hikes. To protect yourself from the sun’s rays, consider bringing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
A good way to keep cool is with a sarong or long-sleeved cotton shirts. Old collared dress shirts work well. They can be soaked in the water and worn in the raft or carried on a hike for later use. This method of evaporative cooling is very effective. Bandanas are another useful item that can be used in this manner. Camp-wear should be made of cotton and be loose-fitting. A combination of shorts/skirt and a lightweight top is ideal for staying cool on hot afternoons.
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 fall, 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 a 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! 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.
A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are also a must. Rheos, the official sunglasses sponsor of OARS guides, offers polarized floatable nautical eyewear with 100% UV protection. Use promo code OARS15 to save 15% on any purchase from The Nautical Eyewear Collection.
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.
We recommend bringing 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, insulated bottles recommended for trips in hot climates to prevent water from becoming too hot to drink
☐ Locking carabiner (for clipping a water bottle or personal dry bag into a raft or inflatable kayak
☐ Headlamp or flashlight (consider bringing extra batteries)
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized such as Rheos floatable eyewear www.rheosgear.com) with securing strap (consider bringing a spare)
☐ Small, quick-drying towel
☐ Hand sanitizer
☐ 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
☐ Face covering(s) for use while riding in shuttle vehicles and entering enclosed spaces
☐ 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
☐ Swimwear; a two-piece is recommended for women for changing and using the restroom. Tankinis and board shorts 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)
☐ 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. Women may prefer an athletic skirt or dress
Additional Essentials for early/late season trips (April / May / early June / September):
☐ 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, evaporative cooling, changing clothes, etc
☐ Small day pack, waist pack or hydration pack for side hikes
☐ Bathing wipes: pre-moistened disposable towels
☐ Small bags: stuff sacs, zip locks or similar for organizing items in your dry bag
☐ Large empty bag: laundry bag, pillow case or similar for putting clothes into after your trip
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Splash jacket and pants
☐ Lightweight cord and clothespins for drying clothes
☐ Sketchbook, notebook and pen, paperback book
☐ Stand-up Urination Device
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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; 3318 cu in; 54.4 L). 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 rain gear, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, etc. (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter; 1081 cu in; 17.7 L). 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 ensures 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.
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.
Tipping is optional, but appreciated by our staff. If you are wondering how much to tip, you may consider that we operate in a service industry with a host of behind-the-scenes contributors in addition to the guides on your trip. In general, we suggest a gratuity based on 10 – 15% of the trip cost. It is customary on OARS trips for gratuities to be given to the Trip Leader in the form of cash, a personal check, or by mobile app (a “peer to peer” payment method such as Venmo, PayPal or similar) who will then distribute appropriately amongst all the guides and support staff.
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.
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Terms and Conditions
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.
Cancelling 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 prior to departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 days prior to 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 prior to 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 (see Travel Protection below).
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation Fee|
|180 or more days prior to your trip||$50 per person|
|179 – 90 days prior to your trip||$100 per person|
|89 – 60 days prior to your trip||$200 per person|
|59 days or less prior to your trip||Full Fare|
Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation e-mail 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 prior to 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 prior to departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 89 days or less prior to departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.
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.
Because there are costs that you will incur if you cancel your reservation after the rescission period, or in the event you need to be evacuated during the trip due to illness or injury, we strongly encourage our guests to purchase an optional travel protection plan. A travel protection plan can reimburse you for non-refundable payments for cancellations due to covered medical reasons; and trip participants must understand that in the event of illness or injury on a wilderness trip, evacuation can be prolonged, difficult and expensive. For complete details and to purchase the plan we highly recommend, visit: https://www.oars.com/tpp
Please note: To be eligible for coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of your initial trip payment and you must be medically fit to travel at the time you pay for the plan. Coverage does not take effect until the plan premium has been paid.
Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage can be purchased as stand-alone coverage, independent of a comprehensive travel protection plan. You can get a quote for this type of policy by entering a Trip Cost amount of $0 when getting a quote here: www.oars.com/tpp
Please note: By entering a Trip Cost amount of $0, the plan will not include Trip Cancellation coverage and you may not be eligible for Emergency Medical Expense benefits relating to any pre-existing conditions.
Liability Release / Assumption of Risk
Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release/assumption of risk form before the trip, confirming awareness that there are inherent risks associated with the trip. 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, pandemics, 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 wellbeing of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 4 guests – 6 for gourmet, craft beer and wine trips), 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.
OARS trips occur in areas where unpredictable environmental conditions are to be expected. To moderate dangerous situations for our guests and guides, all travelers must obey the rules and regulations as determined by the managing agencies and the Trip Leader and demonstrate reasonable consideration for other guests and OARS employees. We reserve the right to remove any guest from a trip if, in our opinion, that guest’s actions or behaviors pose a threat to the safety of her/himself or others, or if those actions or behaviors compromise the enjoyment of the trip for others. Should a guest be asked to leave a trip, there will be no refund for the unused portion, nor will OARS be responsible for additional expenses incurred by the guest for accommodations, return transport, change fees, etc. Prices subject to change without notice. Upon advancement of deposit the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. OARS is an equal opportunity provider.