The Yampa River is beautiful, scenic. Look up from the water at the cliffs and you can almost imagine an Indian staring down at you. Such wilderness areas are very wild, very pristine, and the views are incredible.
Many consider the Yampa River the least impacted
of Colorado's mighty rivers. Dinosaur National
Monument protects the downstream portions while
the Flat Tops Wilderness protects the headwaters.
The proposed Yampa River Wilderness will complete
this sampling of Yampa ecosystems by offering similar
protection to a segment of the Yampa midway
along its course through the rangelands of northwest
The proposed wilderness includes a 17-mile stretch
of the Yampa west of Milk Creek as it meanders past
Duffy Mountain. BLM manages the main area as
the Little Yampa/Juniper Canyon Special Recreation
Management Area (SRMA) for rafting, canoeing,
camping, and hunting. As an SRMA, the area receives
more frequent patrolling, and special attention
for visual qualities and for public access. BLM
has begun a required study to evaluate the Yampa's
freeflowing characteristics and outstanding flatwater recreation for potential addition to the federal Wild
and Scenic Rivers System.
River travel is a popular means of exploring the
Yampa River's wilderness. A largely unaltered riparian
ecosystem lines the river banks, with the cottonwoods
in several large parks offering shade and
seclusion to visitors. From atop Duffy Mountain, a
visitor has views northeast to Craig and west towards
Juniper Canyon where the Yampa wends its way
through rich agricultural land.
Extensive wildlife populations include dozens of bald
eagles wintering along the river, and large numbers
of deer and elk foraging on the area's critical winter
range. Brood rearing grounds for grouse are found
in rolling sagebrush steppe along the area's southwestern
edge, and hikers and boaters frequently spy
pronghorns along the hillsides flanking the river. This
segment of the Yampa contains critical habitat for
the endangered pikeminnow as well.
No oil and gas leases exist within the proposed wilderness,
and BLM management identifies Yampa
River as an area for no-surface-occupancy leasing
in the future. No hardrock mining claims occur within
the area, and there are no surface coal leases in the
Portions of five grazing allotments fall within the
proposed wilderness boundary. Grazing occurs
throughout the year for both sheep and cattle. A number
of minor range improvements can be found in
the area, but these stock ponds and fences are neither
abundant nor overly obtrusive.
Recreational vehicle use is restricted to designated
routes within the proposed wilderness, with the result
there is little such use.
The Yampa River flows through the proposed wilderness
for more than ten miles, and includes that
portion of the river that would be inundated by the
potential Juniper Mountain dam. Most observers
believe the presence of endangered species makes
the likelihood of the dam’s approval extremely remote.
The USFWS has designated this reach of the river as critical habitat for the endangered Pike minnow. The holder of the proposed dam's water rights, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, has explored moving its water rights to other off-stream sites on tributaries. A dozen or so adjudicated water rights occur within the area. The Duffy Tunnel diversion is intentionally excluded from the western wilderness boundary to avoid conflict with those water rights.
The proposed wilderness boundary has been drawn
to exclude nonconforming uses such as power lines,
access roads, water diversion structures, and obvious
range improvements. In addition to 12,000 acres
of BLM land, there are two private parcels totaling
320 acres along the Yampa River and a section of
state land in the northwest corner.
The northern boundary and western boundaries are
defined by the BLM/private land boundary, and the
eastern boundary generally follows power lines on
the eastern end of Duffy Mountain. The southern
boundary is defined by the Duffy Mountain Road
and Moffat County Road #17 to a point approximately
where the Duffy Tunnel intersects the Yampa