Dinosaur National Monument Officials Warning Floaters To Beware High Flows On Yampa River

Near record or record flows are expected this spring along the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument. This shot of of Maytag Hole in the Warm Springs Rapid was taken May 23, 2008, when the river was running at 22,000 cubic feet per second. NPS photo.

Heavy snow years translate into great paddling in the white-water frothing the West's iconic rivers. But in Dinosaur National Monument officials are warning floaters to be particularly cautious on the Yampa River this spring due to high flows.

"We anticipate record spring run-offs on the rivers through Dinosaur National Monument," said Superintendent Mary Risser. "We have record snow packs in both the Green River and Yampa River basins, and recent storms through the area have added to the snow pack. Plus, cool temperatures have delayed snowmelt run-off. We urge extreme caution when boating Dinosaur's rivers or even just being around rivers and streams."

The National Park Service relies upon forecasting from the Bureau of Reclamation, which works closely with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center and the National Weather Service, to plan for the season. This year, the snowpack conditions in the Yampa Basin are poised to provide the highest river flows since 1922 when records first began to be kept, a park release said. The Yampa's highest flow of record – 33,600 cubic feet per second – occurred in 1984. Once the temperature starts to warm and the snowmelt run-off begins, the Yampa River is anticipated to peak between 29,000 and 39,000 cubic feet per second at Deerlodge.

"We want to remind people to think about safety when recreating or working near the area's rivers and streams," continued Superintendent Risser. "Take the following into consideration."

* Always wear an approved lifejacket, protective footwear, and clothing.

* Remember, the river is melted snow! It will be extremely cold. If someone gets wet, hypothermia could be a concern. Get them into dry clothing and warm them as soon as possible.

* Be aware that the water will erode the banks and cause "cut banks." Never venture too close to the edge of the river. Cut banks can easily collapse. If someone is standing on the bank when it collapses, they could get wet or, in the worst case scenario, be swept downstream in the current.

* If you do end up in the water, try to float with your feet pointed downstream and near the water's surface to avoid catching a foot in the rocks at the bottom of the river. Stand up only in shallow, calm water.

* ALWAYS SCOUT RAPIDS! Never run a rapid unless you can see a clear path through it. Watch out for new obstacles! Logs or entire trees could easily get caught up on rocks and pose a hazard to boating.

* This high water will bring lots of debris (tires, culverts, metal – anything lying within the flood plain) down the river. Any unidentifiable sealed containers with unknown substance found within Dinosaur National Monument should be left as is. Report locations and brief descriptions to rangers. If possible, take photos of the container and email to the River Office at e-mail us.

* Do not underestimate the power of the river. Rangers watched full-grown cottonwood trees hit the hole at Warm Spring at 22,000 cfs in 2008 and saw the rapid's hydraulics thrust the trees several feet in the air.

* Due to swift currents, sharp drop-offs, sandbars, and other unseen hazards, swimming is not recommended.

* Aid is difficult to obtain in case of an accident. Therefore, remote rivers through isolated wilderness should be approached with caution.

* Report any hazards on Dinosaur's rivers, such as log jams, to the River Office as soon as possible. Note the distance upstream or downstream from river miles listed on maps and guides and email rangers at this address. Include if the hazard was river right or left. Provide a brief description of the hazard and take a photo, if possible.

Comments

We finally scored a permit, now it looks like we could be flooded off the Yampa. We have lots of experience in or group, veteran guides who have rowed and paddled lots of rivers, east and west. What is too high? What happens to the campsites? Does the river become a flush to the take out? We really want to see the Yampa, as it's the only canyon in the CO drainage we've not yet run, but we don't want it to be our last river trip...

Jackie

We have a June 10th put in and I am a little concerned now. Did you get any useful information to you comment? Did you go? What information do you have to share?

Dean

Dean, here's an update from the park:

Potential flooding on the Yampa River has required the monument to suspend water and restroom availability at Deerlodge Park Campground due to the potential for contamination of the water system. River trips are still permitted to launch from
the site, but you should plan accordingly. If the river floods the
campground, campsites maybe limited or not available. River levels are
constantly changing due to local and regional weather conditions.

You might also try calling the park for the latest river conditions: 1-866-825-2995

Hope you have a great trip!

My wife and I were on a commercialy guided trip on the Yampa on the 10th of June, 2011. Out of four rafts, two of them were violently flipped and injuries sustained by the clients. My wife ended up with blunt force trauma and a hematoma on her left calf. She is still limping and the healing can take months not to mention the blood clotting issue. She has been under doctors care since then. My injury was far more serious in that I suffered severe rotator cuff tears and just four days ago went for an operation on my left shoulder. This has complicated my life considerably since I am now grounded for activity the next 6-8 months and we cancelled a much planned for trip to Germany. The fact that our guides came to the conclusion that we faced a dangerous rapid and many of us showed visible concern did not seem to sway their decision to put us in harms way when surely it would have been safer for us to walk around while they took the rafts through empty. Our guide was way over her head in not having the power to row the correct line and allow us to drift into the maelstrom of the Maytag. The other guide, a male could not possibly overcome the inertia of the pontoon raft he was guiding in light of the weight and lack of mobility of a 27ft raft. In summation, two out of four rafts were involved in a serious but preventable incident and that does not bode well for a rafting company that boasts of its professionalism. We would never recommend the services of this company.