A Clean, Wild Yampa River

Over 100 people in Steamboat Springs and Craig, CO, put forth the largest river cleanup the Yampa River has ever seen.

Yampa River Cleanup | Kent Vertrees

In July, American Rivers teamed up with local groups and volunteers in Steamboat Springs, CO and to clean up the Yampa River. To talk more about the work we did and the importance of river cleanups, I asked Kent Vertrees of Friends of the Yampa to guest blog.


In early summer, once the high-water has receded, the Yampa River in Northwest Colorado becomes a beautiful, mellow river that attracts hundreds if not thousands of people each day. We call it the “tube hatch” and it mimics the mayfly and caddisfly hatches where people on inner tubes inundate the river, enjoying the natural amusement park ride that the Yampa has provided us.

The Yampa River, in Northwest Colorado, is known as one of the wildest rivers in North America. Snowmelt from the Continental Divide in its headwaters fills the river in the spring, overflowing its banks, creating habitats for endangered fish and allowing boaters to have an unique recreation experience floating on a river that isn’t highly managed by man.

The river is wild and free due to the remote nature of its location. It isn’t impacted by man in such a way that limits its cleanliness, its clarity and its flow. Still, we have our way of impacting even the wildest rivers and the most remote areas.

Small towns like Steamboat Springs and Craig, Colorado are positioned on the Yampa’s banks. As a community, we love this river, we respect it for its life-giving qualities and wild attributes. The Yampa provides us with water for agriculture, industrial use, and drinking. It allows us one-of-a-kind recreational opportunities that are loved by locals and vacationers alike.

  • Floating the Yampa River | Kent Vertrees
    Floating the Yampa River
    Kent Vertrees

But, with this love and use of the river comes consequences. The river can’t clean itself and, unfortunately, not every person who enjoys the river does so with the utmost respect or care. People don’t get that flip flops are the first thing to fall off when they get in their tubes, or unsecured hats and water bottles will float away when they go upside down in a small hole or large wave.

So, what do we do?

The Friends of the Yampa along with partners like American Rivers, the City of Steamboat Springs, the Northwest Colorado Chapter of the Parrot Heads, the Colorado Water Trust and concerned citizens, organize river cleanups to help the river do what it can’t. The satisfaction, appreciation and community feeling you get from volunteering and organizing river cleanups connects us to rivers on a deep level.

On July 9, 2016, Friends of the Yampa (FOY) organized around 100 people in Steamboat Springs and Craig to put forth the largest river cleanup the Yampa River has ever seen. We have been holding river cleanups for over 30 years on the Yampa River and were excited to partner with American Rivers to celebrate the 25th anniversary of National River Cleanup® in our efforts to leave our hometown waterway cleaner and healthier than before. The cleanup was held on a perfect Colorado bluebird day and our volunteers cleaned up over a ton of trash and gained the satisfaction of knowing that they were helping this river become even more beautiful.

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