Low-water Run of the Yampa River, Part 4: Running Low Water

Dear Reader,

The river gauge on the Yampa would have read between 1000 and 2000 cfs (cubic feet per second moving past the gauge) on a normal late-June day. On this particular day, though, it read half that much, at 600 cfs. And it was dropping.

The Only Ones on the River

We were the only group at the put-in. Everyone else, who we normally would’ve had to share the river with, had canceled or been scared away. Even the shuttle company we’d hired to drive our vehicles from the put-in, in Colorado, to the take-out in Utah, had told us not run to run it.

The Park Rangers though had promised they wouldn’t turn us away. That morning we worried they might not keep their word.

Low water meant lots of riffles

As it was, they did let us go. And for the next four and a half days, until the Yampa merged its waters with the higher-water, dam-controlled Green River, we’d have the river to ourselves.

At one point, a few days later, we did see another soul, but she wasn’t on the river. We’d just pulled over on a beach to point out a trail, when we were greeted by barks and saw two dogs and a lady. She waved at us from Mantle Ranch, across the river. It’s the only ranch along this stretch of river. And then she yelled out her surprise at seeing us. She hadn’t seen anyone for days, and at such low water she hadn’t expected to, either.

Low water meant exposed beaches

What Low Water Meant

But that morning at the put-in, what we knew for sure was this: The Yampa was shallower than we’d ever run it, and moving much slower than usual. Most of our daylight hours would be spent just getting from one designated campsite to the next. And we’d be tired and sunburned by the time we made it to camp.

We’d likely be paddling against the upstream winds which develop in the afternoons as the land heats up. And dang it if they don’t take a lot of energy to battle.

Pushing a raft off the rocks

The greatest pain in the ass though was going be running aground. what would we do if our boats got stuck and had to be abandoned until Spring? Highly unlikely. But not completely impossible.

Our biggest concern, was making it through a very rocky Warm Springs Rapid on Day 4 without pinning our boats or anyone breaking an ankle.

[See upcoming Part 5: The Art of Floating]

Cliff and Chayse, entering Warm Springs Rapid

We are alive.

We are healthy.

We are adventurers.



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