Yampa River Awareness Project Documents, Educates and Inspires
American Whitewater’s affiliate group, The Friends of the Yampa, has been organizing multi day Yampa River Awareness Project raft trips down the Yampa Canyon since 2006. The idea of bringing together paddlers, river advocates, politicians, photographers, videographers and the press was born out of a major threat to the Yampa’s flows some 8 years ago.
“Since the first YRAP trip in 2006, this semi-annual float trip has become somewhat of an institution”, says Soren Jespersen, acting president of the Friends of the Yampa. “Getting these participants out of the stuffy conference room or off the conference call and onto the water, riverside with their colleagues, adds layers to the relationships that, in the end, will go to battle for rivers like the Yampa”
Widely considered to be the largest tributary of the Colorado River that still retains its free flowing nature and wild hydrograph, the Yampa has a presumptive “excess” of water that is being eyed by thirsty Front Range cities.
In early June 2014, with nearly 12,000 cfs pulsing down the river canyon, YRAP successfully organized another crew of 25 participants in order to focus on the next steps in protecting the Yampa River, and especially on getting preservation of the Yampa’s mighty flows into the Governor’s Colorado State Water Plan.
A few inspirations struck over the course of the trip, including ideas to:
- Create another short film that captures the essence of YRAP in a “who we are and what we do” type documentary. Film can be used by other river groups to continue to get the word out about the Yampa’s wilderness and recreation values;
- Compile a scientific “backbone” that will support all political efforts to protect flows in the Yampa River. There are a lot of scientific studies, papers and documents that support letting Yampa River water flow downstream and there needs to be a clearinghouse of this information and/or a cliff notes version accessible to the public.
- Continue to engage with local, in basin, agricultural and industry representatives so to emphasize the partnership between consumptive and non-consumptive Yampa River needs.
- Examine future water right allocations that will keep Yampa River water in the Yampa River Basin.
Along with partnering with the global rafting company O.A.R.S who provided the outfitting again for this trip, the 2014 YRAP version included a flyover of the Yampa River by locals Dan Birch and Jack Dysart, who volunteered their airplanes and pilot expertise. The flyover provided a birdseye perspective of the magnificent immensity of this river basin and specifically of Dinosaur National Monument and the Yampa Canyon.
A diverse crew paddled together for four days, and once again has come away with renewed appreciation for this beautiful and wild river, and for the great task of protecting it for generations to come.
Kent Vertrees, Friends of the Yampa