If you love nature and plan to visit Hayden, Colorado, then consider planning a day trip to Yampa River State Park. Here, visitors can explore a 134-mile stretch of the Yampa River, interacting with the flora and fauna that call this particular riverbed home. The park is located off US Highway 40 near Craig and Steamboat Springs.
Yampa River State Park has three major components: the river, the camping areas, and the Elkhead Reservoir. Each of these offers interesting things to do in Colorado and plenty of chances to experience nature.
At the Elkhead Reservoir, which is open to the public, guests can boat and fish throughout the year. During the warmest months, the reservoir offers two swim beaches. These protected areas offer the chance to swim in the lake away from the boats and the people who are fishing.
The river itself is also popular among those who love to fish. It has 13 different access points, some of which have their own camping areas. The river has excellent fishing in its flat-water areas, and it also has miles of Class I to V rapids for boating and rafting.
Those who wish to camp may find the Headquarters camping area to be the best option. It has 35 sites with electric for RVs, as well as 10 tent camping sites. A sand volleyball court, group picnic area and playground add to the appeal of this particular camping area. Five group camping sites allow your group to stay together while enjoying the area. This site is an excellent base for exploring Steamboat, hunting near the park or fishing on the river.
While boating and fishing may be the more popular activities at the park, other activities include birding, hiking, hunting and OHV riding. For birding, an observation tower on the nature trail at Yampa River Headquarters is an excellent place to start, and the visitor’s center has information on birds currently in the area.
Those who wish to hunt can begin at the visitor’s center to learn which areas are open for hunting. Shower and laundry facilities are available for hunting parties.
The Yampa River is home to a wide range of river animals, including waterfowl, many species of fish, and also big game like elk, antelope and deer. Birders can enjoy migrating groups of sand hill cranes and blue heron, in addition to ducks and geese. Bald eagles are frequently seen here as well.
As one of the last relatively intact river systems in the west, the Yampa River houses several rare plant communities, adding to the natural beauty of the region.
Yampa River sits in the Wyoming Basin Physiographic Province of the Rocky Mountains and has four major structures: the Washakie Basin, the Unita Mountains, the White River Plateau, and the Park Range. Along the river, visitors can see geological features like volcanic dikes and fossil beds.
If You Go
Daily use access to the park is $7. To camp, you will pay between $10 and $25, depending on the site you choose. The park is open for day use from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily, and the visitor’s center is open during these hours on weekdays and on weekends as staffing permits.
The park office is located at 6185 West US Highway 40 in Hayden, Colorado, approximately 26 miles from Steamboat Springs. The phone number is 970-276-2061.
You can find out more about the park by visiting http://www.parks.state.co.us/parks/yampariver/Pages/YampaRiverStatePark.aspx.
Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006, specializing in travel and finance writing, with work having been published on USA Today, the New York Stock Exchange and Hotels.com in addition to here on Go Colorado!
Header photo by J. Iannone.
Boating photo by a staff photographer at Colorado State Parks.
Campsite photo courtesy of Colorado State Parks.