Yampa River Youth Camps give kids a chance to recreate, learn while on the water | CraigDailyPress.com

Yampa River Youth Camps give kids a chance to recreate, learn while on the water

Ellen Fike
For Craig Press
Willows, cottonwoods and a bright assortment of shrubs and other vegetation have donned their fall-colored leaves along the Yampa River. (Craig Press File)

It was disappointing for the Friends of the Yampa to cancel their first planned river camps last year.

But unfortunately, the pandemic and an inability to social distance while on a raft or kayak meant that the four camps had to be postponed. It was disappointing, but safety was the utmost priority for the organization.

Thankfully, with the rollout of three effective COVID-19 vaccines and infection cases trending downward, Friends of the Yampa knew it was going to be a perfect summer for their river camps.

“We’re pretty excited about holding them,” FOTY executive director Lindsey Marlow said. “We did reduce the number of camps to three this year, just because we are still in COVID times. But still, we’re excited to show off the Yampa, because it’s one of the best portions of the river here in this area.”

The camps will be held throughout the month of June: June 8-10 and 15-17 in Steamboat Springs and June 22-24 in Craig. The camps are open to anyone entering seventh through ninth grade.

The cost is $250 to attend the three-day camps, but scholarships are available for those who are in need, paying anywhere from 25% to 100% of the cost. There are only eight spots per camp.

No previous river experience is required to participate in the camp, as the main goal of the program is to empower campers to travel safely in whitewater river conditions while also teaching them the glory of the Yampa River.

“A lot of people don’t approach the river because they don’t feel they can recreate safely on it,” Marlow said. “We’re creating a mechanism for people to recreate safely and accessing recreational opportunities like kayaking and rafting. Campers will learn to read a river, because it’s dynamic and there are hazards you have to understand to make it feel accessible.”

For the three-day camp in Craig, campers will learn the basics of raft guiding, such as learning paddle skills, tying knots, identifying eddies and basic swift water rescue techniques.

Additionally, they will learn about why conditions in a river change, how to tell when conditions have changed and about leave no trace ethics.

On the third and final day of the camp, students will do a “town run,” rafting or kayaking through the Yampa on a more extended journey.

Although there is only one camp in Craig this summer, Marlow said FOTY is absolutely open to scheduling more next summer if there is an interest.

“Moffat County has such a different type of river from the other segments of the Yampa,” Marlow said. “We think it’s important to learn about these skills, and we decided to start with middle schools because they’re capable of recreating on the river in a raft, but their minds are also open and they want to learn about this.”

To register for the camps, visit https://friendsoftheyampa.com/youth-river-camps/.

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