Screening to present story of Warm Springs Rapid’s spirit |

Screening to present story of Warm Springs Rapid’s spirit

The Yampa River is seen at Wagon Wheel Point. The shot is part of Rig to Flip's film, "Warm Springs." It will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Schmiggity's.
Courtesy Photo
On Sept. 17, 2012, Dustin Surprenant inspects rockfall at Warm Springs Rapid — a rockfall that set the scene for “Warm Springs.” A film produced by Rig to Flip about the rapid will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Schmiggity’s.

— A sense of place informs inhabitants of the past and the future. When stories are attached, it brings new life to the place each time it’s retold.

One place in particular has a special sentiment among rafters all across the U.S., but the connection is most apparent within the Yampa Valley.

A rapid that is infamous and loved by many is Warm Springs Rapid.

Located in the deep canyons of Dinosaur National Monument on the Yampa River, Warm Springs Rapid is feared and loved, said Ben Saheb, chief multimedia specialist for Rig to Flip.

The Friends of the Yampa film, “Warm Springs,” was produced by Rig to Flip as a documentary on Warm Springs Rapid, and it will show at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Schmiggity’s. The event is free with proceeds from donations or contributions going to Friends of the Yampa, a major contributor to the film.

“The spirit of Warm Springs Rapid is here in our mountains,” Saheb said. “I can’t think about Warm Springs Rapid without thinking about powder days in Steamboat because they are one in the same.”

“That’s everything you skied on,” added Cody Perry, an outdoor educator at Colorado Mountain College and the film’s project director. “That’s every snowflake that hit your jacket throughout the winter.”

In June 1965, a massive landslide and debris flow washed through the river canyon and created the rapid. And 2 1/2 years ago, Perry and Saheb started working on the film to capture the essence of Warm Springs Rapid, an area that is a section of one of the last wild rivers in the West. The focus for the film solidified after part of a cliff caved into the rapid.

Ultimately, the two filmmakers wanted to investigate the rockfall but found with it a profound story that also uncovered themes of where the river conservation movement began.

“Warm Springs” explores the culture and story behind one of the West’s most infamous rapids. It weaves together historic river footage from the archives at the University of Utah and interviews from people who were there when the rapid first formed, people like George Wendt, president and founder of O.A.R.S., a nationally acclaimed rafting company.

Working with Friends of the Yampa, American Whitewater, American Rivers, University of Utah and O.A.R.S., Perry and Saheb found what they were looking for and then some.

“Not only did we discover stories from people who witnessed its formation, but we had the other story, too, about how the Yampa River had a place in defining the American experience of the outdoors,” Perry said. “We used the rapid as a lens.”

The rapid’s unique wildness attracts raft enthusiasts from all across the country.

“It’s not beholden to some flow regime that can be managed in some way,” Perry said. “People come to raft it because the river is wild and some years it can be huge and unprecedented. They want to experience a river being a river, behaving the way it naturally does.”

The filmmakers hope this film helps future generations grasp the history, life lessons and experiences made possible by taking a trip on this particular stretch of river.

“When you go rafting, nothing else matters in the world other than your floating village, and that tells you a lot about the community aspect of it and a sense of place that comes with the experience,” Saheb said. “You have this internal drive to do better and support those around you. Kids and adults learn invaluable lessons when rafting that can’t be taught anywhere else.”

Although the film premiered in Moab, Utah, and Flagstaff, Arizona, on Nov. 1, the showing in Steamboat will include historic footage and interviews not seen at the other events.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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