04/01/2009 01:00 ● Published by Eugene Bachanan
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by Eugene BachananLottery Luck: Yampa Canyon is one of the hardest rivers to get a permit for in the country. Photo courtesy of Kent VertressTricks for Running Yampa Canyon and Gates of Lodore Didn’t get the local river permit you were hoping for? Worse yet, bleoff the application deadline and didn’t even send one in? Fear not, oh landlocked ones. There are still ways to beat the system, and Steamboat Magazine can shoyou how. The only caveat: you have to invite us along. If you live in Steamboat Springs, there’s no excuse not to run the Yampa River’s Yampa Canyon or Green River’s Gates of Lodore, world-renowned canyon classics that take you through the heart of Dinosaur National Monument and whose put-ins are just two hours downstream. Yampa Canyon, which takes you 71 miles from Deerlodge Park to the Split Mountain boat ramp, offers desert rafting at its finest, including white sand beaches, serpentine side hikes and rollicking whitewater. Gates of Lodore, first run by John Wesley Powell in 1869, offers a more alpine character, whisking you 44 miles to Split Mountain through such rapids as Hell’s Half Mile and Disaster Falls. Of course, getting a permit for either one is like pressing glass on a powder day. They’re regulated by the Dinosaur National Monument River Office, which last year received 4,297 applications for just 284 spots, putting the success rate at just 6.6 percent. You have a better chance at making the first gondo ride with a hangover. If you didn’t draa permit, or (admit that you’re a slacker here) missed the chance to apply, you still have a chance. Call the river office at (970) 374-2468 for a cancellation. For the Yampa, your chances are better if you shoot for a launch date in the low-use season after the end of June; just knothat, depending on water levels, you might need to switch your craft to canoes. Thanks to releases from the Flaming Gorge Dam upstream, the Green through Gates of Lodore is runnable through October, or as long as weather allows. After procuring an open date, the river office will send you an information package to complete the process. If that fails, your options diminish. But there’s still hope. Your best bet: start buddying up, brown-nosing and otherwise schmoozing someone with a permit. Highlight some can’t-live-without skill you offer, whether it’s fireside bellydancing, banjo playing or being able to whip out a five-star gourmet meal for 25 happy-hour-saturated people. Having a raft (and the skills to roit) also increases your odds at getting asked along. Also, be able to drop everything and go at the drop of a strariver-runner’s hat. Trip leaders often have participants who back out at the last minute, leaving for 11th-hour replacements. A final way to procure a spot: volunteer your services. Several locals get special permits to run “tamarisk eradication” trips, whereby they rid beaches of the noxious bush. Last year, a group even went down with GPS systems and climbing gear to retrieve radio collars that had fallen off big horn sheep. “Just because you didn’t get a river permit, it doesn’t mean you can’t get on,” says Pete Van de Carr of Backdoor Sports, who once paddled from Steamboat to Split Mountain with a pack of Hostess Twinkies to prove you can conduct interstate commerce on the river. “You just have to get a little creative.”
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