Our motorcycle ride took us to Echo Park, the end of the road and a major stop-over for the rafters. At the center of Dinosaur National Monument the Yampa river flows into the Green river which then twists around a huge monolith named Steamboat Rock. Echo Park is the campground in a natural amphitheater opposite Steamboat Rock, at the end of a fantastic road through a sheer walled canyon.
The canyon leading to Echo Park.
Ancient petroglyphs pecked into the sheer canyon wall, 35 feet up!
The 'bow' of Steamboat Rock with the Green river flowing around it.
Exploring Dinosaur Nat’l. Mon.
We decided to move from the busy raft put-in site at Deerlodge Campground, but we had to find a spot we can park the camper and trailer out of the way! The spot we found is off a county road at the border of the park on BLM land about 1500 feet higher in elevation with great views towards the Yampa river valley and canyons. The weather was windy, but warm and sunny so we took a motorcycle ride on the Yampa Bench road in the park. The road follows the river on a high bench with occasional overlooks down onto the river.
The ride started with a long view through a burned out area towards the river canyon.
We then descended the twisting, turning road along the side canyons.
At Wagon Wheel Point Overlook we got our first look at the river and saw the rafters that had cast-off on Tuesday from Deerlodge!
At Harding Hole Overlook we looked over sheer cliffs to see the oxbow turn in the river.
At Castle Park Overlook we looked down on a lush green private ranch on the river, as well as the Park Service rafters that had cast-off on Tuesday as well.
Rafting the Yampa
We woke to a beehive of activity. We soon discovered that we are camped at THE prime spot to put-in for rafting the Yampa river at this highest-flow time of year. We learned that the Yampa is the last undammed, free-flowing, wild tributary to the huge Colorado River system. As we relaxed drinking our morning coffee we watched 5 groups arrive, pump up their rafts, pack, load gear, gather for their pre-boating safety lectures, don their life-jackets, load passengers and cast off! Just as the last boat floated away, tomorrow’s group began to arrive to camp overnight before their launch. What we thought would be a remote, quiet campsite is one of the busiest spots for rafters in the country! By late July the natural run-off will diminish and the river will shrink to a trickle and the campsite will truly be a remote, quiet spot.
The National Park Service arrived with 5 rafts and a group of volunteer "weed warriors" who travel the river corridor and eliminate non-native plants.
The pre-boating safety lecture for another group.
The commercial guided trip casting off.
The campsite is situated on a natural flood plain that is occassionally under water!
The Yampa River
The day after crossing the Rockies brought a cold, windy, wet storm. We had camped along the Yampa river west of Craig, Co. but the weather didn’t afford any recreation for us so we moved further west to Deerlodge Campground in Dinosaur National Monument, also on the Yampa river.
The storm over the Yampa.
The storm started breaking up after 5pm when we arrived at Deerlodge campground.
A beautiful sunset reflected on the receding clouds.
Crossing the Rockies
A break between storms allowed us a great day to cross the Rockies on Sunday, May 23. As we drove towards Fort Collins, CO we saw the mountains in the distance rise from the prairie. We went through Fort Collins and followed the Cache La Poudre river (or ‘Pooder’ as we later learned the locals call it) towards the pass. We descended from the first pass into a high plateau ringed by snow capped mountains. Over the next snow covered pass we came into Steamboat Springs, CO, a green oasis of lush grass, aspens and ski slopes.
A tiny portion of the Rocky Mountains!
Some of the mountains surrounding the high plateau.
The welcome oasis in Steamboat Springs after crossing the "Rabbit Ears Pass".