Mayor discovers June is the time for ‘therapeutic’ float on the Yampa |

Mayor discovers June is the time for ‘therapeutic’ float on the Yampa

Craig Mayor makes first-ever float on Yampa

Former Routt County Commissioner Ben Beall was at the oars June17 as a floating party of officials and river advocates from Routt and Moffat counties floated from Routt into the city of Craig on a perfect day on the Yampa River. Beall's passengers, from left, include Colorado Department of Agriculture noxious weed specialist Patty York, Moffat County Weed and Pest Manager Jessica Counts and Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid.
Tom Ross

— I was reminded June 16 of just how suddenly the seasons change in the Yampa Valley while rafting a stretch of the Yampa River between Hayden and Craig, which I had never before experienced.

When the river falls into that sweet spot where it’s ideal for rafts with rowing frames, it’s time to jump on it or wait until next year. Within a few weeks, the river, where it transitions from Routt to Moffat County, will be fit for canoes but not 16-foot inflatable river rafts.

I wasn’t the only member of Thursday’s outing on the Yampa who had never seen this stretch of the river from a boat. My raft was piloted by a veteran river runner and John Husband, the retired Little Snake field manager for the Bureau of Land Management who rows this stretch several times a season.

My fellow passenger was none other than “hizzoner,” the mayor of Craig, Ray Beck, who confided that Thursday’s launch on the river marked his first-ever float trip on the Yampa, which flows along the southern limit of his fair city where he has lived since 1978. Let me tell you, the mayor was jazzed.

“It was like therapy, floating down the river among people who have a passion for that type of event.” Beck said. “Everything comes to a standstill. We’re so busy in our worlds today with all the technical devices we have … I didn’t even bring my cell phone. The weather was cool, and we got to see a lot of wildlife.”

Beck and I were fortunate enough to be invited on a five-raft (plus one kayak) expedition that ferried local public officials and folks from land management agencies on the 13.5-mile, flat-water float from the state wildlife area west of Hayden known as “Dorsey” (after the name on a silver railroad box at the turnoff from U.S. Highway 40) all the way to Craig. We ultimately took the rafts out of the river at Loudy Simpson Park in Craig after learning about the challenges and opportunities along a special stretch of our river.

Beck turned out to have a keen eye for wildlife, easily spotting a bald eagle perched in the shade of a cottonwood branch. Beck grew up and went to high school in the Steamboat neighborhood of Brooklyn, where his father expected him to forage for food. He fished the Yampa and gathered serviceberries and morels.

Maybe all that time outdoors as a youth explains why It was always Beck who sighted the birds and animals on his first float trip.

For me the day was made special by the level of camaraderie people from Routt and Moffat experienced during the float. Rivers can do that for you.

For Steamboat Today readers interested in floating from Dorsey all the way to Craig, the best guide is the detailed map published by Yampa River State Park at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife web page.

Don’t wait too long. The Yampa’s channel is much wider in the stretch between Hayden and Craig than it is in Steamboat, meaning the gravel bars will soon be popping out and another brief rafting season will have flown by, leaving the river to canoes and eagles.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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