Floating the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument is a trip not many can savor, as the Yampa is an unbridled river, one that slams shut its rafting window by late June. As the snowmelt wanes, the river simmers down, and the rock gardens raise themselves.
Though the Yampa flows through northwestern Colorado into northeastern Utah before melding with the Green River, the landscape is much more southern Utah -- big, towering sandstone monoliths fluted by the river. Main canyons dwarf boaters and swivel their heads around in awe.
Side canyons harbor alcoves and pot holes bigger than hot tubs and hide patches of history. Grassy benches with box elders. Some perches of rock high above the river are dotted with potholes rich with cattails and other watery vegetation, anchor Ponderosa pines large enough they seem capable of snagging clouds, and feature curious geologic formations that baffle the imagination.