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The Best in Family Vacations &
Family Vacation Ideas
Yampa River, Colorado

Family Vacations & Family Vacation Ideas - Yampa River, CO

Four and Five Days, Class III

Four-Day Departures
June 1, 22, 28

Four-Day Price
: $799 adult/$699 youth

Five-Day Value Departures
May 18; June 11

Five-Day Price
: $891 adult/$802 youth

Five-Day Peak Departures
July 2, 9, 14

Five-Day Price
: $971 adult/$880 youth

Five Day Geology Trips, Class III
Geology Trips with a professional geologist

Departure Dates
May 16, 26; June 9


Additional Costs:
$5 National Park Service entrance fee
Optional $91 per person transportation package

•  The Yampa's high-water season is short but sweet – from May to mid-July, snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains comes through this deep gorge, resulting in powerful Class III-IV rapids. This is some of the most consistently exciting whitewater of any river trip in Colorado, thrilling guests with several major rapids each day, in addition to the countless smaller waves and ripples. Challenging as the whitewater is, first-time rafters and children as young as eight (older in higher-water periods) will have no problem running the Yampa.

•  Spanning western Colorado and eastern Utah, Dinosaur is located in a cradle of North American prehistory and history. Captured here is one of the world's most impressive concentrations of fossilized dinosaur bones, which has revealed countless secrets of this ancient species. Dinosaur National Monument also holds the fossils of sea creatures two to three times older than the dinosaurs, woken from their once watery graves by the earth's upheaval and stranded in the surface rocks that we walk upon today. During your trip through the Canyon of Lodore, you'll be witness to several ancient fossils in a frieze of river rock; you will also be well positioned for a pre- or post-trip visit to Dinosaur Quarry, where you can actually view the dinosaur bones as they first were discovered in 1909, still entombed in the same sandstone into which they were deposited by the river 150 million years ago.

•  As you tackle the Yampa River, you will have the fascinating experience of actually traveling through the river canyon's various layers, each one representing a different age of the earth's development. These ages include the rise and fall of major mountain ranges, the arrival and retreat of oceans at least 12 different times, the alternating development of deserts and swamplands. Over a billion years are captured in these canyon walls, along with the remnants of various life forms that existed long before humans. Our path through the ages showcases some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world, ones that have been folded, lifted and split by eons of the earth's natural forces. At Split Mountain, past the confluence of the Yampa and Green, you'll pass through a hole carved out of a rock wall by the river itself. Beside this obvious scientific value, the Yampa's geology is also responsible for the beauty of the surrounding canyon: vertical yellow and red sandstone walls that reach as high as 1000 feet into the air and squeeze the river through a surprisingly narrow gorge, tiger-striped walls alternating in blonde rock and black manganese oxide, clear creeks tumbling out of shady side canyons, sheltering sandstone caves, and more.

•  The Yampa River is brimful with natural history – from species that lived long before dinosaurs, to the pre-Columbian people who carved their elaborate and meaningful petroglyphs into the cliffs, to the discoveries of all this history in the 20th century. Over 8000 years ago, groups of Paleo-Indians prosoered in this region, hunting now extinct mammals like giant bison. These groups are believed to have evolved several times with changing climates and technologies. The most recent of these groups to make their home along the Yampa, were the Ute Indians who thrived with their understanding of how to use the region's constantly changing resources. Western expansion in the late 19th century, however, ended their pastoral way of life. In 1909, paleontologist Earl Douglas unearthed the first of thousands of dinosaur bones just below the surface of Split Mountain, bringing to the world a new wealth of information about these long lost creatures. Throughout the early- and mid-1900s various river pioneers entered the river, blazing the trail for today's rafting industry on the Yampa. Despite it's rich history, Dinosaur National Monument and other nearby canyons were all but destroyed when dams were proposed at Echo Park and Split Mountain. Had the dams been approved, priceless Native American archeological sites, rapids on the Green and Yampa Rivers, and the habitat of river-dwelling wildlife would have been forever destroyed as well as the fossil remains. Thankfully, profound public outcry from conservation groups would not let the US Congress simply dismiss the dams, leaving intact the precious habitats and artifacts that exist along the river.

•  Great hikes are available on this section of the Yampa River. An assortment of trails lead to waterfalls, caves, ancient petroglyphs, old cowboy refuges, side canyon oasis's and much more. The groups more aggressive hikers can even climb to the top of the canyon, where they'll be rewarded with the tremendous views of Dinosaur National Monument. Most campsites along the river offer access to these trails and you'll have several opportunities to hike from camp in the afternoon, either on a guided walk or on your own.

Sample Itineraryfamily vacation ideas
O.A.R.S takes pride in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Each trip is varies depending upon the group, other trips on the water and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:

The Day Before Your Trip
We'll meet for a pre-trip meeting at 7:00 pm the evening before your trip at Dinosaur Inn in Vernal. This is a fantastic opportunity to get accustomed to your fellow travelers and guides and ask any last-minute questions you may have forgotten about. Your guides will give you a thorough trip orientation, then pass out your waterproof river bags so you can pack your belongings that evening.

Day 1

•  We'll start the day with a picturesque two-hour drive from Vernal to our put-in at Deerlodge Park, where your boats and the rest of your O.A.R.S.' crew are waiting for you. After a detailed safety talk, our trip begins. Today, the Yampa gently meanders through wide-open desert scenery, quite distinctive from the deep canyons that adorn the majority of the river corridor. Blooming cactus are among some of the eye-catching desert flora that we'll enjoy as we peacefully float down the river, soaking in the sights, sounds and sensations of our wilderness surroundings.

•  Our first day on the Yampa will set the pace for the rest of our river trip. Typically, we spend a couple of hours on the water in the early in the day, sometimes stopping for a great hike, a swim in a waterfall or Indian petroglyphs. Come lunchtime, we pull over to a sandy beach and enjoy a delicious picnic. After feasting and relaxing on the beach (or perhaps enjoying a game of Frisbee or horseshoes), we board our boats and watch the desert panoramas slowly develop as we continue on down the river. Today's whitewater is relatively mild, the rapids become bigger and more frequent over the next couple of days. Mid- to late-afternoon, we pull off the water and make camp; you grab your bags and set up your tent while we take care of the kitchen area and “living room” – camp chairs and tonight's campfire (if permitted). This is the perfect time for you to lounge on the beach with that book you want to finish for ages.

•  Before long you will be savoring delicious hors d'oeuvres and your beverage of choice – appetizing as these refreshments are, they're always better after a day on the river! Nap, take an exploratory hike, or sit back and laugh with friends and family as we prepare the evening meal. After another satisfying feast, the night is yours to spend as you wish. Maybe stories or jokes or music will bring us together tonight; maybe the crackle of the fire, the whisper of the river and the beautiful of the big, star-filled sky will encourage silent reflection on the amazing wilderness that is, for now, our home.

Day 2

•  Your day begins with the early morning light reflecting the colors of the sunrise off the river. Fresh coffee and tea are ready for you when you get up; grab a cup, sit back and take in the glory of the awakening wilderness. Breakfast is soon served – omelets made to order, blueberry pancakes, sizzling bacon, fresh fruit, toast, and juice are among the treats you'll indulge in each morning. Once you've had your fill, you'll pack up your gear as the guides break down camp, then it' on to our new day's adventure.

•  As we enter the Yampa River canyon, we leave behind the desert, entering a new world where rock walls loom above us, rising to heights of up to 1000 feet. The whitewater intensifies as the canyon begins; today we challenge three major rapids, not to mention some smaller riffles.

•  Our guides may lead a hike to Stubs Cabin, an old cattle rustler homestead that dates back to the early 1900s. One hundred years ago, this remote canyon was used as a hideout by stealthy old-western outlaws, and several deserted cabins along the river remind us of this shadier side of the Yampa's history. Other sites we may visit include Fremont Indian granaries at Mantle Cave, side canyons featuring tumbling streams and waterfalls, and yawning sandstone caves, some of which once housed Pat Lynch, a hermit who stayed his days along the Yampa River.

Day 3

•  For two days, we've been watching the magnificent canyon walls and sandstone formations rise up and around us, growing bigger and bolder around every river bend. Today the fascinating geology of this canyon reaches its height as we float past some of the most astounding rock marvels of the Canyon: Grand Overhang, Cleopatra's Couch, and the Tiger Wall. The latter is perhaps the most renowned feature of the Yampa River – a sheer cliff wall of pale sandstone, vividly streaked with jet-black stripes of manganese oxide, or “desert varnish.”

•  Not to be outdone by the scenery, the whitewater is also at its best today as we run the colossal Warm Springs Rapid. A relatively new rapid, Warm Spring was formed in 1965 after heavy side canyon floods strew boulders across the river, resulting in the Yampa's biggest whitewater.

•  Tonight, much like the past two evenings, we'll set up camp on a big, sandy beach that likely allows access to another great hiking trial. If our guides don't arrange a hike, you may prefer a self-guided walk, or perhaps you'd rather just relax and wait patiently for dinner – always a trip highlight, as you know by know that our day's adventures stir up a hearty appetite. Perhaps this evening you'll enjoy grilled salmon with orange zest, wild rice, and a fresh green salad. Or perhaps a lean, juicy steak with mushrooms and mixed vegetables strikes your fancy as we watch the twilight turn to dusk above the canyon walls. A sweet dessert usually follows dinner – maybe peach cobbler, strawberry shortcake, or something rich and chocolaty. After our meal is over, the group dynamic of our trip is at its best as we gather around the campfire for nighttime conversation and laughter.

Days 4-5

•  Reaching the union with the Green River, we bid a final farewell to the Yampa, but not to the beauty and whitewater excitement it offered us – both continue as we continue down the mighty Green. In fact, with the convergence of the two rivers, the whitewater intensifies and presents us with even more rapids than before.

•  Past the confluence, we round Steamboat Rock and continue into Echo Park. Here we may take a break to visit the intriguing Fremont rock art near to the side of the river. Or perhaps the group prefers a hike to Whispering Cave, passing magnificent sandstone formations as we make our way there. In Whirlpool Canyon, we have the option to take the longest hike of our trip, following beautiful Jones Hole Creek to amazingly well preserved panels of pictographs and petroglyphs.

•  After a bit of relaxed flat water, we begin to pick up speed as we enter Split Mountain Canyon. Here the river's gradient becoming considerably steeper, presenting us with four or five major rapids that deliver plenty of whitewater excitement during our last day on the river. Reaching our take-out point at Split Mountain, we'll take a short ride back to Vernal, returning to the Dinosaur Inn between 4 and 6 PM.

What's Included with the Yampa River Trip?
•  Skilled professional rafting guides
•  All meals from lunch on Day 1 through lunch on Day 4
•  Transportation from Vernal to the river, from Split Mountain to Vernal
•  Life jackets (Required when on the river)
•  Excellent equipment, which include quality rafts

What's Not Included?
•  Transportation to and from Vernal
•  Tents and sleeping bags—These may be rented from OARS
•  Personal items, a complete packing list will be provided
•  Pre / Post vacation accommodations and meals

Why Visit Utah and Colorado?
Your Yampa River trip positions you for a visit to either Colorado or Utah; two states both distinct but play an equal role in the definition of the American West. Utah is home to some of the most diverse geography to be found anywhere in the United States. Colorado, home to the American Rockies, offers some of the countries most breathtaking mountain scenery. Both states boast a dozen national parks and monuments. Here are some highlights you may want to check out:

•  More than 150 years ago, Brigham Young and his followers settled at the Great Slt Lake as they moved west in search of religious freedom . Hard work and determination transformed this relative desert into a productive heartland for the Church of Latter Day Saints. Salt Lake City today stands along the eastern shores of the largest inland body of salt water in the country and is known as the “crossroads of the West.” Downtown Salt Lake City features, Temple Square, the home of the Mormon Temple, Tabernacle and Visitor Center, providing an insider's look at the city's Mormon heritage. The State Capitol is also located downtown and is well worth a visit. Salt Lake exhibits museums of fine art and natural history, rounding out an experience in the cultural and historic perspectives of this city.

•  Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park are located a relatively short 4 hours south of Salt Lake City, just off Interstate 15. These parks highlight the fascinating rock formations that Southern Utah is famous for. Bryce Canyon is known for its show of color, boasting reds, yellows and browns not typically seen in rock and stone. A visit to Zion, named in the nineteenth century by Mormon pioneers, is indeed out of this world; incredible rock configurations and hanging gardens are commonplace in the many canyons open to exploration.

•  The base for O.A.R.S.' Utah operations is located in Moab , guaranteeing you an opportunity to visit this center for outdoor enthusiasts. Moab is a great jumping-off point for excursions into both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks , offering some of the best 4x4-touring, mountain biking and hiking in the world, not to mention whitewater rafting.

•  Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park flank Moab on either side—a virtual playground for visitors. Arches gets its name for being home to the highest concentration of natural arches anywhere in the world; there are over 2,000 here, interspersed with balanced rocks, spires and fins of shaped sandstone. Incredible vistas of the snow-capped La Sal Mountains form the backdrop to an already impressive foreground. Canyonlands, divided into 3 distinct areas, is home to Cataract Canyon and the Confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Each of the parks boast expansive and memorable views along their paved roadways. However, off the highway is where they are at their best, featuring hundreds of miles of some of the most striking backcountry hiking and mountain-biking trails on Earth.

•  The celebrated splendor of the Rockies is at its best in Rocky Mountain National Park . One of the highest regions in the country, the park showcases rugged peaks and valleys, wet and dry meadows, streams, natural lakes, glaciers and copious wildlife in a glorious alpine display. Intensify your Rocky Mountain High with a visit to Pike's Peak , where the stunning view inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write “America the Beautiful.”

•  Perhaps most well known for its lofty mountains forested in cool woodlands, Colorado also exhibits a fantastic display of red rock scenery. Near Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods is home to tremendous red sandstone structures the likes of Kissing Camels and Balanced Rock, which are at their best in the early morning and later afternoon sunshine. In the southwestern corner of the state, Mesa Verde National Park is one of the nation's foremost archaeological preserves as a result of its thousands of Native American ruins. Surrounded by canyons and forested with pinyon and junipers, this mesa is home to some of the world's largest and best-preserved cliff dwellings. Not far away, the Four Corners Monument marks the only point in the U.S. where four states meet.

•  Many of Colorado's 19th century gold mining towns still exist today, shining with character as bright as the riches that were once discovered there. Historic towns such as Durango and Cripple Creek capture the matchless atmosphere of the Old West during this mad search for riches. Central City, located in what was once called “the richest square mile on earth,” is part of the National Historic District and boasts well-preserved 1870's Main Street, opera house, and surrounding hills dotted with Victorian homes.

•  The state's numerous national forests are areas of outstanding beauty, offering the outdoor lover a grand selection of activities through which to enjoy their quiet green splendor. Arapaho, Gunnison, Rio Grande and San Juan are just a few of Colorado's national forests, offering hiking, mountain biking, river recreation, and much more.

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