Wild and Scenic Little Yampa Canyon

Some call it Duffy Canyon, others call it the Little Yampa Canyon. Regardless of how you refer to this beautiful place, one thing is clear…it is a gem of a natural resource right in your back yard. We tend to get a little Steamboat-centric here in the Yampa Valley, particularly during river season. Between surfing Charlie’s Hole, rafting with friends and family, tubing once the sun comes out and the water drops, and fishing every stretch of the Yampa through town, there is no shortage of river fun in our community. But there’s more. After the river flows through Craig and before it drops into Cross Mountain Gorge, you’ll find a 27 mile stretch of river that runs through BLM land and has been designated as a “Wild and Scenic River” suitability listing.


This means that it has been determined by an interdisciplinary team of researchers to hold “Outstandingly Remarkable Value” of regional and/or national significance within a quarter mile of the river’s high water mark. For a river, or stretch of river, to be considered for Wild and Scenic status, it must be free-flowing. There is a long-standing argument by some as to whether the Yampa River is actually free-flowing, due to the presence of dams within the drainage. However, the Yampa is one of the most hydrologically and biologically intact rivers in the West, behaving as an undammed river when it comes to flows. And further, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 defines “free-flowing” rivers as having: “Existence in their natural condition, Flow in natural condition, Few impoundments, Few diversions, No straightening, No rip-rapping” (Little Snake Field Office, Proposed RMP/Final EIS: Appendix D – Wild and Scenic Rivers Evaluation. 2010).

All of this means that there are few rivers like this left here in the Western United States, and you’ve got one right downstream from your front porch. The Little Yampa Canyon offers majestic flatwater boating opportunities, and has been recognized statewide and regionally for these characteristics. If you have not explored this little stretch of river yet, get out there and do it. You might be surprised at the beauty, the fishing, the wildlife, and the serenity that awaits you just around the corner.



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