Colorado’s Yampa River

The Yampa River of northwest Colorado is considered the last major free flowing-river in the seven state Colorado River Basin. It cascades for 249 miles from high in the Rocky Mountains near Steamboat Springs and descends over 6,000 ft. from alpine tundra to parched desert. Bisecting local, state, and national parks, and at times enclosed in a 2,500 ft. deep canyon, it morphs from a cold trout stream to a warm water haven for endangered fish, evolving from placid meanders into famous whitewater rapids.


Join Colorado nature photographer John Fielder and educator/river rat Patrick Tierney as they photograph and write their way down the entire length of the river from the Yampa’s headwaters in the Flat Tops Wilderness at 11,500 ft. to its confluence with the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument. Between Fielder’s sublime images of tundra wildflowers, eagles and elk, and the tributaries and canyons of the Yampa, and Tierney’s discourse about the Yampa’s human, natural, and political history, you will feel like you are rowing along with the authors!

Colorado’s Yampa River today is a delicately balanced bio-physical system that offers sustainable food and water for wildlife and humans alike. Upon closer examination, the Yampa is the result of at least 30 million years of geological processes, 300,000 years of biological evolution, 5,000 years of Native American utilization, and only 200 years of Anglo exploitation. Yet the Yampa and its interconnected resources still function almost as they have for eons — a wonderful anomaly in an otherwise river-enslaved Colorado River basin. But there are proposals to undo this evolutionary masterpiece, all in a matter of ten years, to support unsustainable population growth on the east slope of Colorado.

The State of Colorado is currently attempting to create its first statewide water plan, an effort to allocate limited water resources to an unlimited list of water users including municipalities along Colorado’s booming Front Range, farms and ranches, and industry led by the exponentially growing oil & gas sector. As of 2015, the first iteration of the plan does not preclude exporting even more water than is already removed by diversion from the Colorado River Basin. Potential proposals include building billion dollar pipelines to transport the waters of the Yampa and Green rivers to Denver and its neighbors.

How much water will remain in the these rivers, and the creeks that feed them, to sustain recreation-based industry and nature herself? This book is certain to become a part of the discussion!

Writer Patrick Tierney, Ph.D., has been kayaking, rafting, hiking, and skiing in the Yampa Basin for 38 years as a licensed whitewater guide, National Park Service river ranger, nature guide, rafting outfitter, director of the nonprofit Yampa River Awareness Project, teacher, and researcher.