Summer marks beginning of another famous time of year in the Yampa Valley – river season. The Yampa River flows through Steamboat Springs on its 250-mile journey from the Flat Tops Wilderness Area to its junction with the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument. On its way west, it provides outstanding paddling, including, rafting, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and other boating recreation opportunities.
And the summer months are high season for floating through town on your boat of choice. The Yampa River is a wild river, meaning that its flows still follow a natural hydrograph. In spring, the river runs high as a winters worth of snow melts and flows downhill. In the summer the levels become steadier, and by fall the river is only ankle-deep in places and can be easily crossed on foot.
Throughout the course of a summer season, all types of non-motorized watercraft can be seen floating down the Yampa. Whether it’s the large inflatable rafts running the swollen springtime flows, or kayakers surfing the waves and holes of the town stretch, or the tubes and paddleboards that are more common in the lower flows of late summer, the Yampa hosts them all. For me, I prefer the excitement and camaraderie you get when paddling a raft down the river during the springs months when the river is swollen with snowmelt. The tubing season that begins as the flows ebb is perfect for a fun day in the sun with friends and family.
If you’ve never run the Yampa River before, I’d suggest booking a trip with a local outfitter to get a taste of our unique river and to avoid the sometimes complicated logistics and gear required to running a trip on your own. Blue Sky West and Bucking Rainbow are outfitting companies that run rafting trips on the Yampa (along with other rivers nearby), and Backdoor Sports and One Stop Ski Shop can hook you up with everything you need for a family tubing adventure.
There aren’t many places left where you can experience a wild river as it flows right through a gorgeous mountain town. But in Steamboat Springs you can. Whether it’s kayaking, rafting, tubing, or paddleboarding, the wild Yampa River accommodates it all.