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Two yellow OARS rafts full of people float down the Yampa River through a deep canyon in Dinosaur National Monument, Utah.

Yampa River Geology Trip – 5 Days

Join OARS and Dr. Melissa Giovanni for an in-depth exploration of the wonders of the evolution of the Earth on the Yampa River


Colorado & Utah


May 25, 2024 - May 29, 2024




Dr. Melissa Giovanni in front of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon.
Dr. Melissa Giovanni in Grand Canyon

Dr. Melissa Giovanni is a tenured professor of environmental science at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. She is also a guide for the Grand Canyon Conservancy Field Institute, where she leads backpacking and whitewater rafting trips in Grand Canyon National Park, indulging in her passion for conservation education. She earned her Ph.D. from UCLA and her B.S. from the University of Arizona, both in geology.

Over the first decade of her career, Melissa discovered that teaching in the field was the best part of her job. Immersing her geology students in world-class locales around the Southwest was not only the most engaging but the most fun. Taking those skills to the Grand Canyon, she was thrilled to learn that guiding is teaching at its best. It is in sharing the natural and human stories of her favorite place with her guests that Melissa has found her purpose.

She has given invited lectures to a wide range of audiences around the Southwest, including a TEDx talk for the TED Countdown series on climate solutions. She is the faculty advisor for the environmental student club at CSN and enjoys volunteering with her students on public lands around Las Vegas.

About This Trip

Dinosaur National Monument – the name alone conjures a host of images: dinosaur bones preserved in ancient rock walls, deep rivers that cut indecorously through desert canyons, ancient sea beds full of prehistoric fossils frozen in time.

As you descend the Yampa River, you have the fascinating experience of actually traveling through the canyon’s various layers, each one representing an entire age of the earth’s development: the rise and fall of major mountain ranges, the arrival and retreat of oceans at least 12 different times, the alternating development of deserts and swamplands. A billion years are captured in these canyon walls, along with the remnants of various life forms that existed long before humans. Our pathway through time showcases some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world, ones that have been folded, lifted, and split by eons of geological forces.

Besides this fascinating scientific value, the Yampa’s geology is also responsible for the beauty of its canyon home: vertical yellow and red sandstone walls that tower as high as 1000 feet and squeeze the river through a surprisingly narrow gorge, tiger-striped walls alternating in blonde rock and black manganese oxide, clear creeks tumbling out of shady side canyons, sheltering sandstone caves, and more.


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