One of Steamboat Springs’ most iconic features is the wild Yampa River, which runs through the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs. With mostly unrestricted flows, this river is home to fish that are now forever gone from other Western rivers and serves as the lifeblood for Northwest Colorado in many ways ( Aside from recreation, the river is used for agriculture and offers municipal and industrial uses which make it a very important system.

Its recreational use of both locals and visitors is very common and is connected to the heritage and lifestyle of the Yampa Valley region. Fishing, rafting, kayaking, tubing, paddleboarding, and hiking along the river are some of the main ways it is enjoyed. When making plans to go enjoy the river, it’s important to remember river etiquette and follow guidelines so we can protect it for many years to come. This includes rules set in place by the City of Steamboat Springs and the Department of Wildlife to keep the river healthy and clean. Here are some of our recommended ways to respect the Yampa River:  


Follow the rules of the river.   

Rules like no dogs, no Styrofoam coolers, no glass, and no alcohol should be followed to protect both the river and yourself. Review the full list of rules here. It is also important to avoid littering. Snack packaging or bottles and lids are best kept safe in a dry bag to prevent losing them throughout the journey. You should wear durable and river-smart apparel so items like sunglasses and flip flops don’t get left behind.

Respect others.

Follow Kindness Floats the Boat principles and respect not only the folks on the river, but also those who live on the banks of it. Give space to those kayaking, fishing, or paddle boarding – and show kindness to each person you pass. A good rule of thumb is to not exit onto private property if you’re recreating on the river. There are plenty of designated places to pull off the river so please plan ahead and know where you want to stop.


Watch water levels.

The local news in Steamboat Springs frequently reports on the water levels in the summer. Knowing the water level before you go is a must as tubing is not permitted if the water level is over 700 cubic feet. Anything over is considered dangerous high waters in the river and isn’t safe for tubers.


Support the Yampa Ripple Effect program.

The Yampa Ripple Effect is a collaboration between businesses and nonprofit organizations working toward supporting a healthy, flowing Yampa River. Funds collected will help promote and restore clean water, wildlife and fish habitat, agriculture, and economic vitality throughout the Valley. So next time you are checking out at a participating local business, consider rounding up your purchase amount to the next dollar! Every contribution will directly support the work of the Yampa River Fund and the Friends of the Yampa’s river health-related programs.


Your commitment to following the guidelines above is essential to sustaining our wild Yampa River. Join us in protecting it and cherishing it for many summers to come and be sure to spread the word! Happy river days are ahead!