A Meeting of the Minds on the Yampa River
It’s amazing how sharing a groover for five days can bring people together.
For the past eight years, OARS has supported Friends of the Yampa and American Rivers in hosting a Yampa River Awareness Project (YRAP) trip. Driving out of the Split Mountain parking lot after five days rafting the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument, we always think this is the best thing we do all year for river conservation in the Colorado River Basin and the Yampa. That’s because this annual “meeting of the minds” brings together policy experts, agricultural leaders, students, elected officials, journalists, scientists, and creatives to discuss the values of the region’s waterways, innovative water management solutions, river protection, and much more.
These YRAP trips were inspired by, and now continue, the legacy of the trips river runner Don Hatch and conservationist David Brower hosted in the 1950s to educate the public about the Echo Park Dam proposal near the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. If built the dam would have flooded both the Yampa and Lodore Canyons. You can still see the old ladders in Whirlpool Canyon that were used by engineers to survey the dam site.
David Brower and Don Hatch won the fight for Dinosaur in the 1950s launching the modern western river conservation movement. A movement American Rivers and Friends of the Yampa proudly carry on to this day.
While there is no longer a dam proposal threatening the canyons of Dinosaur, the Yampa, Green and all of the tributaries that collectively make up the Colorado River Basin, are now threatened by overuse and climate change. The annual Yampa River Awareness Project trip is a unique opportunity for a group of individuals with diverse priorities to go beyond the boardroom, into one of the wild environments that’s at stake, and discuss urgent Colorado River Basin issues in hopes of advancing solutions.
The impact of these gatherings has been significant over the years. YRAP trips have opened the door to honest discussions between local ranchers, boaters and anglers, and towns about protecting the Yampa River and its flows. They have provided a network for the next generation of conservation leaders and journalists. The trips have inspired books, dozens of media articles, and films. Google even captured a Street View of the Yampa River on a YRAP trip.
More than anything, the experience inspires trust and builds good will between participants with various perspectives and backgrounds. That trust and goodwill continues long after everybody packs up and drives home from the take-out at Split Mountain. It carries on into conference rooms, negotiations, and board meetings. It impacts policy and decision-making. It leads to projects and partnerships – all of which benefit the Colorado River and its tributaries like the Yampa.
Photos: Colleen Miniuk – May 2019 Yampa River Awareness Project sponsored by Friends of the Yampa, American Rivers, and OARS