Steamboat great for tubing, kayaking |

Steamboat great for tubing, kayaking

Yampa a playground for kayakers, tubers

Peak season

The early summer pairing of the Yampa’s biggest events has much to do with the timing of the highest water, as the river typically peaks around the end of May.

But with a record snow year at the Steamboat Ski Area comes anticipation and hopes for healthy flows throughout the summer.

That’s good news for visitors hoping to get a piece of the runoff action. Although the Yampa features world-class play waves at high flows, the town stretch remains a relatively mellow, intermediate section regardless. That means it’s a great place to introduce people to whitewater. Mountain Sports Kayak School and Backdoor Sports offer kayak instruction and classes while Blue Sky West and Bucking Rainbow Outfitters as well as Backdoor Sports offer rafting and some inflatable kayak trips down the town stretch of the Yampa.

After the peak

Once the Yampa River level drops, expert paddlers head west to the desert canyon Cross Mountain Gorge section of the Yampa, near Maybell, or east to the steep, dam-released Gore Canyon section of the Colorado River, near Kremmling. Commercial options still exist on these stretches for the white-knuckle rafter, with Blue Sky West/Bucking Rainbow offering trips down Cross Mountain earlier in the summer, and Timberline Tours and Arkansas Valley Adventures offering trips down Gore Canyon later in the summer.

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The Colorado River section below Gore Canyon offers a calmer, more family-friendly option that flows into the late summer with a host of outfitters like Yampa-based Colorado River Guides offering trips meeting at State Bridge Landing, about 55 miles south of Steamboat.

Tuber’s delight

Meanwhile, as the Yampa’s flow levels out and its water temperatures warm in July and August, the town stretch turns into a tuber’s haven.

In general, the upper ends of the stretch in and below the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area provide better fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities while the private tubers best recreational bets lie in the more actively used section downstream of Dr. Rich Weiss Park.

Backdoor Sports, One Stop Ski Shop and Blue Sky West/Bucking Rainbow offer tube rentals and shuttle service for a specified section of the Yampa, at certain times and flows mandated by the city of Steamboat Springs for commercial use -ibelow the Fifth Street Bridge to the James Brown Bridge, between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., and approximately between the high to low flow levels of 600 to 85 cubic feet per second.

Respect the river

City of Steamboat Springs open space supervisor Craig Robinson reminded Yampa River users and visiting tubers of the local initiatives the community has taken to improve the health of a treasured asset.

“It’s the backbone of the community and it’s been a community effort to improve the Yampa, from groups like Yampa Valley Fly Fishers putting weirs in the river and doing bank stabilization and creating fish habitat to Friends of the Yampa getting the C-Hole built in cooperation with the city,” Robinson said.

With that in mind, Robinson said public tubers are expected to follow the regulations the city requires of commercial tubing outfitters.

According to the 2003 Yampa River Management Plan’s commercial use guidelines, commercial tubers are restricted from putting on the river outside the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. and from floating upstream of the Fifth Street Bridge or downstream of the James Brown Bridge. The plan also discourages private tubers from putting in upstream of Fetcher Park and (generally) requires outfitters to discontinue commercial tubing operations if the river drops below 85 cubic feet per second.

In addition, the following etiquette rules apply to all river users in city limits: no glass; pack out trash, no littering; no Styrofoam coolers; respect other users; obey quiet zone; no nudity; no dogs; no alcohol; avoid walking/standing in river bed (except fishermen).

Backdoor Sports owner Peter Van De Carr added that public tubers should also be extremely wary of high flows, above 600 to 700 CFS, when the commercial outfitters do not offer tubing.

“I don’t know how many 20-year-old kids I scream at that float by without life jackets,” Van De Carr said, stressing the importance of floating with a personal flotation device.

With the ongoing summer construction at Bud Werner Memorial Library, Robinson also urged kayakers and other river users to park in the West Lincoln Park lot or the Depot Art Center lot on the south side of the 13th Street Bridge.

Check the Yampa’s daily river flow on the Web at the U.S. Geological Survey site: