Alex Weaver submitted the following report for all canoeists to enjoy.
Thanks Alex, and we look forward seeing your pictures. Jerry
Little Snake/Yampa Rivers
CURRENT STREAMFLOW LITTLE SNAKE NEAR LILY, CO
CURRENT STREAMFLOW LITTLE SNAKE NEAR SLATER, CO
May 16-18, 2003
Lots of wildlife and no tamarisk, on a rarely traveled river
Difficulty: Class I/II
Hazards: see trip description, below
Distance: Variable, depending on how far you want to go, and type of boat.
We paddled 66 miles.
Types of boats: Best for canoes or kayaks. Duckies not recommended for long
trips; rafts not recommended on stretches with hazardous fences, shallow
Maps: BLM Lodore and Rangely (2 maps)
Permit: None required
River flows for our trip:
Little Snake@Lily: 950-1700 cfs (5/16), 1500-1900 cfs (5/17), 1600-2500 cfs
Yampa@Deerlodge Park: 9500 cfs (5/18)
2003 was a year of good snowpack for the Yampa/White River basin.
Description: Cattle-country boating at its finest!
The Little Snake runs through a beautiful, remote area of northwest
Colorado, close to Wyoming and Utah. The river is so rarely traveled that
we saw no people, no evidence of campsites, and no footprints along the
river during our entire trip. We did see plenty of wildlife, including many
antelope, beaver, deer, elk, bald eagles, doves, and other birds including
many Canada geese and many white pelicans. We also saw many cattle and some
domesticated horses, as we passed ranches and farms along the way.
Much of the vegetation is sagebrush; as you get closer to the Yampa, there
is more Russian olive, but very little tamarisk anywhere. On the Yampa,
there are beautiful groves of cottonwood trees. Although there are many
cattle, the area has not been as heavily grazed as the lower Rio Grande and
other Western rivers we've paddled.
We put in close to County Road 4, about 66 miles upstream of our take-out at
Deerlodge Park on the Yampa. Much of the land along the Little Snake is
private, but there are still many options for different put-in spots on
public land along the length of the river. Trip planning can be a little
tricky since you must camp on public land; under Colorado law, you cannot
touch the beds or banks of the river on private land. On the lower 15 miles
of the run, there is almost no public land, so you must either camp upstream
or paddle all the way down to Deerlodge Park. We found that a GPS unit was
very useful in figuring out exactly where we were, and the BLM maps were
essential since they clearly mark public and private lands.
Where there are cattle, there is barbed wire. Boaters on the Little Snake
will see it as hunks of rusting metal on the river bank, and in fences that
run down into the river. This is a major hazard, and you need to be alert.
Be especially cautious in areas where the river narrows; look for fence
posts on the river banks. We found one river-wide barbed-wire fence below
about mile 40,** and many other fences that extended a few feet into the
river. New fences can appear at any time, so be careful.
You also need to watch for wires, cables, bridges, and other structures
across the river, of which there are several. We found one collapsed bridge
below mile 40,** which spanned the river and would be a nasty trap for the
unwary boater. Scout carefully; a raft would have to portage around this
The whitewater on this run is on the lower section; we didn't see any rapids
at all until we passed the gaging station below mile 15.** At this point the
river narrows as it enters a short gorge, and the current speeds up. There
is one Class II S-turn rapid: look for the horizon line, and pull out on the
left to scout. Portaging here would be challenging. There are more riffles
We were lucky to have no bugs on this trip, and no rain. We did have wind
every day, which started at about 10 a.m. and blew until sundown. We got up
early to make miles before the wind started; we also had fast current, which
helped us make the miles. We covered 16 miles on day 1 (in 4 hours), 20 on
day 2 (in 5 hours), and 30 on day 3 (in 7.5 hours).
Rafters would probably have trouble with the hazards and shallow water above
the gaging station. Below this, and particularly in the wide, deep stretch
below the confluence with the Yampa, this would be a fine raft trip.
*Mileages are measured upstream from Deerlodge Park, which is at Mile 0.