Trip Report – Little Yampa Canyon 2024

By Dan Custer

May 15 and 16, South Beach to Duffy Mountain, 32 miles

We had a pleasant trip through Little Yampa Canyon this year, largely because it got postponed by a week. Had we gone when originally planned we would have lots of rain, wind, and much colder temperatures. A real hazard if someone took swim. As it was, we were lucky with the weather. There was a light rain at night while camping at the put-in, but we woke up the sun burning off patchy fog. No rain for the rest of the trip. The early mornings were frosty, followed by plenty of sunshine. Strong headwinds are normal for this trip, but we had only few isolated gusts. No sustained strong winds.

Last year this trip was canceled because of flood conditions, exceeding 10,000 CFS. This year the river was up and pretty much bank full at about 5,000 CFS. While the river was high, it was easy to navigate. Logs and one dead cow floated by but did not present a hazard. There were no notable hazards caused by the high water, but the water was icy cold.

Several people saw an osprey with a fish being chased by an eagle at the put-in. A few Sand-hill cranes could be heard at the put-in. About an hour or so down the river we spotted a heron rookery on river left. Having a heron in the tree helped to identify it as a rookery instead a group of eagle nests. I don’t recall noticing the heron nests on previous trips. Someone commented on hearing birds singing the whole way down the river. I heard meadowlarks and red wing black birds. Saw several merganser pairs and Canadian goose pairs here and there. It seemed to me that there were fewer bald eagles this year, even though there were plenty of them to be seen. Lyn captured an outstanding photo of an adult and fledgling bald eagle in a nest.

Another critter we saw that I had not noticed on previous trips was the Mormon cricket. We would have probably seen them last year if the trip wasn’t canceled, as they made the news. I thought I saw them on shore during a rest stop, but did not see them while camping on the island. They were obvious as hitchhikers on floating debris.

The Duffy Mountain take-out is on the outside of a river bend, and with high water it did not have enough room for all of us to come at once, so we got out a couple of boats at a time. It was easy to stage boats a bit upstream on the opposite side the river, where they could wait in slow water. This made for a smooth river exit.

One outstanding feature of this trip as the lack of human generated noise. The first half the trip is through quiet ranch land and next to a lightly used railroad track. We saw a loaded coal train headed east the first afternoon, and what looked like the same train going west with empty coal cars in the morning. Other than that, one single engine air plane flew past and there were some biologists in two motorboats near the take-out. For the most part, all we heard were the birds, the river running, and our own voices. Also heard a coyote briefly in the evening.

In short, it was an excellent trip.