A man wakeboards on Elkhead Reservoir last summer. The campgrounds, trails and beaches at the reservoir are open, and the water is available to hand-launch boats. The boat ramp at Elkhead opens May 25.

Photo by Scott Franz

A man wakeboards on Elkhead Reservoir last summer. The campgrounds, trails and beaches at the reservoir are open, and the water is available to hand-launch boats. The boat ramp at Elkhead opens May 25.

Yampa River, Elkhead Reservoir ready for outdoor fun

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— The weather has taken a turn for summer in the past week, and outdoor recreation is on the rise.

The biggest local outdoors attraction for summer activities is the Yampa River, where residents can boat, float and fish for much of the year. According to Yampa River State Park Manager Ron Dellacroce, the river is looking much more recreation-friendly in 2013.

“The river stuff has opened up and the river is running really good, so all our sites are open,” Dellacroce said. “You can go all the way to the headwaters of the Yampa, and it’s looking good. We went out and did a float the other day just for a check, and it’s just a beautiful time to be out.”

Compared to last year, when flows were extremely low, Dellacroce said this year’s flows appear to be at least average. According to U.S. Geological Survey data, in the past week the Yampa’s flow rates near Craig jumped up nearly 2,000 cubic feet per second and were more than 6,000 cfs as of Thursday, higher than the river ever got last year.

As a result, all 13 of the ramps the state park operates from east of Hayden to Cross Mountain are open, and Dellacroce said they are starting to see more activity on the river. He hopes to have a full season’s worth of activity this year.

“The fishing really isn’t there yet because the river is so muddy,” he said. “But the rest is great. We built a brand new boat ramp at our Duffy Mountain site. That’s one of our main take-outs of the Yampa, and the ramp had washed out years ago. I think people are really going to appreciate that being there.”

Craig Chamber of Commerce and Moffat County Visitor Center Executive Director Chris Oxley said the Chamber has heard from and seen more people than in the past couple of years as the weather has warmed up.

The season is "starting out the way we expected,” she said. “We’ve had a lot more visitors than in the past couple years. You can tell the economy is a bit better and people are traveling more. It’s looking like a great season for anyone who wants to play on the river.”

At Elkhead Reservoir east of Craig, the campgrounds, trails and beaches are open, and the water is available to hand-launch boats. Dellacroce said the boat ramp at Elkhead will open to the public May 25.

Elkhead’s water level is in good shape, as well, Dellacroce said, with the operators of the reservoir having the luxury of letting some water run out this year because of a more plentiful supply.

The area at Elkhead has been made more recreation-friendly since last summer, with more plans in place. The trails from the campground to the east beach have been improved and expanded upon and now boast 3 miles' worth of trails open to any sort of activity. Dellacroce said the goal is to double that number by the end of June and to continue improving that resource in the future.

“The boat ramp opening is always an event in its own right, but we’ve already got people out camping and out fishing,” Dellacroce said. “We’ll have a great season out there, as long as we don’t have any unforeseen circumstances. Now is really the time for the local folks who like to boat, they need to take advantage of this time. There aren’t a lot of people out, and everything is so beautiful and green.”

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com

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