On the northwestern edge of Colorado in Dinosaur National Monument, the Yampa River Canyon is a 2,500-foot gash that winds through sky-scraping red-sandstone cliffs that was virtually unexplored until 1928. Thanks to those first explorers who paddled the river and shared their stories and photographs, Yampa River Canyon became the object of preservationists, ultimately leading to a presidential proclamation by Franklin D. Roosevelt to name the 210,000-acre river corridor a national monument in 1938.
The publicity also enticed thrill-seekers to plan a ride down the river solely for recreation. This was the beginning of Colorado’s whitewater rafting industry. Today, you can still float down the Class III–IV Yampa waters, as well as the Green River (also found with in the monument), with several outfitters or get your own permit through a lottery system; however, availability is limited so competition is fierce.
There's plenty of other things to explore in the monument:
• Dinosaur remains can be found in the monument's red rocks; take a ranger tour to discover them.
• Hiking and biking trails start near the visitor center.
• Backcountry camping opportunities abound for experienced backpackers.
• A network of scenic roads can also take you through the rugged country.
Getting There: Take Hwy. 40 east from Dinosaur for two miles to get to Dinosaur National Monument’s Canyon Area Visitor Center (closed in winter). Pass the park headquarters building (open year-round) and follow Harpers Corner Road for approximately 31 miles where the road ends. Access the walking trail. Hike for about .5 miles to Steamboat Rock, which offers a beautiful view where the Green and Yampa rivers converge.