Casey Durbin found himself immersed in whitewater while kayaking in the Yampa River earlier this year. The Yampa River below the confluence of Soda Creek in Steamboat Springs was flowing at 2,030 cubic feet per second Thursday afternoon, well above the median flow level for the date of 1,160 cfs.

John F. Russell/file

Casey Durbin found himself immersed in whitewater while kayaking in the Yampa River earlier this year. The Yampa River below the confluence of Soda Creek in Steamboat Springs was flowing at 2,030 cubic feet per second Thursday afternoon, well above the median flow level for the date of 1,160 cfs.

Kayak play holes on the Yampa River in Steamboat will have a 'little bite' this weekend

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— The Yampa River below the confluence of Soda Creek in Steamboat Springs was flowing at 2,030 cubic feet per second Thursday afternoon, well above the median flow level for the date of 1,160 cfs.

Translated into the kayak-ish dialect, that means: Charlie’s Hole will be sticky on river left for paddlers going into the weekend, and kayakers who flip may find it tricky to exit the hole.

“Both Charlie’s and the D-hole will have a little bite too them,” veteran kayaker Adam Mayo said Thursday afternoon. “I’ve seen a few people swim out of Charlie’s in the last few days and they were solid paddlers.”

The good news is that in both of the two primary kayak play holes in Steamboat, paddlers can avoid the sticky wave on river left and punch through the right side if they want to. And there’s more good news further upstream, where smaller waves are at ideal levels for front-surfing — quietly surfing a wave without attempting dramatic maneuvers.

“The rest of the waves on the river are just starting to get prime,” longtime kayak instructor Barry Smith said. “From Fetcher Park down to the kayak course, in an area known as Cottonwood Canyon, a lot of the rocks are now forming really nice, glassy waves that only break a little on the top where as at the C-hole, the whole thing is breaking right now.”

Smith is 63 and still relishes Charlie’s Hole, but there are days, he said, when his generation of kayakers are content with front-surfing some milder waves.

“I advocate the idea of going down the river for a couple hours as opposed to going to one spot and playing,” Smith said. “But Charlie’s Hole is great right now. It’s all good.”

Smith has been conducting classes for novices this week at the placid stretch of the river known as Bucci Ponds through his Mountain Sports Kayak School.

Much further downstream at Deer Lodge Park at the boundary of Dinosaur National Monument in Moffat County, the river is nearly double its median flow for May 8 at 10,200 cfs.

Mayo, who is on the board of directors of Friends of the Yampa, said based on a weather forecast of cooling temperatures, he expects flows in the river to level off for several days.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was predicting overnight lows near, or just below freezing Thursday through Sunday, a weather trend that could slow the snowmelt that feeds the Yampa.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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