The Last Wild River


Yampa River, CO at Dinosaur National Monument | Chris M. Morris

Yampa River, CO at Dinosaur National Monument | Chris M. Morris

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to fly in a helicopter over the Yampa River, the last wild river in the Colorado River Basin courtesy of LightHawk; a fantastic organization that works with volunteer pilots to fly over priority conservation areas.

The Yampa River rises in the Flat Top Mountains near Steamboat, Colorado and flows through some of the most beautiful, rugged and barren country anywhere in America.  The Yampa meets the Green River at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument. 

Echo Park, one of the most interesting and spectacular places in the basin was the site of a controversial dam proposal in the 1950s but flows free today because of the dedication of a few early conservationists.

A short Iphone video of Echo Park taken in between handing video gear to Pete McBride and holding on for dear life. Warning- The video is loud, I recommend muting your computer.

Few people outside of Colorado are familiar with the Yampa River and fewer still understand its ecological importance to the Upper Colorado River Basin.  While there is a small dam in the headwaters, the majority of the river and its tributaries flow free sending sediment downstream-vital to healthy riverside lands and habitat for endangered fish.   

As climate change and population growth continue to push demand for Colorado River water to the brink, it is likely that the Yampa will again become a target to water the Front Range. 

There are countless breathtaking places in the Colorado River Basin but if I had choose just one…I think would it would be Echo Park. 

  • Where is your favorite place, confluence, canyon, rapid on the Colorado?