Harding Hole to Warm Springs

I’m beginning this page where I left off the last one — with a photo of the Milky Way and Northern Lights from Harding Hole. This photo shows a smaller sweep of the sky than the previous one. Below it is a photo I took in NH exactly a year earlier that also includes the Northern lights at the end of the Milky Way arc.


Boatmen on these trips take pride in placing the groover in a dramatic spot. This morning I had to make two trips to the groover — I forgot to bring my camera the first trip, something I rarely do. The hike to this groover was harder than most. It was up a long sandy incline. But the walk was certainly worth the view. Below is a “normal” single photo of the groover.


But when I stepped back with a wide-angle lens and made a multi-shot (17) image, the scene looked even more spectacular even though this is a distorted view. The groover was under an overhang,  but not inside a cave that is implied by this image. If you click the image below or HERE you will be taken to a version that you can zoom into and explore.  See if  you can find the secret “message” I added to the image.


It was before 7 AM and the wake up call, “COFFEE”, had not yet been given, but many were up and enjoying the early coffee service.


By 7:15 AM the sun had almost reached our camp. This panorama shows a much greater than 180 degree view.


A pair of yellow warblers were feeding their young. The striped male caught a bug and the duller female is at the nest.



Breakfast was scrambled eggs, bacon, and English muffins.



Bruce and George ate their breakfast standing up (on the left below) while others ate sitting down.


Our comfortable sleeping pads were piled high waiting to serve as seat cushions on the rafts.


While we packed up to leave …


… I took some candid photos.

Below Harding Hole were a series of many deep oxbows. I believe the bird in the photo below might be a flycatcher species.





George was in the paddle raft working hard.





Cynthia and Don rode the double duckie in the morning.


We passed a wall that resembled the Grand Overhang which was still ahead of us.


We stopped to learn about an important spawning area for Colorado Pikeminnows. The largest of the minnow species, these endangered fish are typically one to three feet long in Dinosaur National Monument but can reach up to 6 feet and over 30 pounds. Fishermen are urged to release them unharmed immediately. The water, current, and gravel here provide for an ideal spawning ground.EE575--Fish-story---Pan(4)

We pressed on.  More would join Pat’s paddle raft for the exciting trip through Warm Springs Rapid.


I rode with Tony and Al. I trusted Yampa rookie, Tony, to get me through the upcoming Warm Springs Rapids safely. Al on the other hand walked the the boulder bank next to the rapids all the way to our camp for the night. He claimed that was because he wanted to take photos of rafts coming through. I believed him since he was the first person to successfully run the huge new Warm Springs Rapid after the boulder slide 50 years ago.



We negotiated a few small rapids.



The Grand Overhang was impressive.



Some nice clouds were forming as we approached the historic Mantle Ranch in Hell’s Canyon .


We waited parked against the river bank while Pat walked to a ranch building to get permission to visit Mantle Ranch. The Mantle ranch is private land in Dinosaur National Monument. It had a contentious history with the National Park Service.


As we approached the spots where we could tie up along shore and scramble up the bank — this is not a place groups normally visit — several families of Canada Geese decided to relocate across the river.


Pat told us a bit of the history of the ranch. Then we hiked across the flood-irrigated (very wet) field to view petroglyphs on Castle Rock.




Here are some of the petroglyphs along with a bird’s nest in Castle Rock.

Here are some more of the petroglyphs as well as two photos of a violet-green swallow.

We hiked around the end of Castle Rock to the horse pasture.



Below is a view of the Mantle ranch that I copied from the web. The field is the green, the ranch buildings are on the right of the field hidden from view behind Castle Rock, the petroglyphs are on the other side of Castle Rock, and the stable area is below the bottom of this photo.


It was only a short distance from Mantle Ranch past Hospital Hill to our lunch spot at Laddie Park.




Lunch at Laddie Park was at 1:45 PM. While waiting for lunch, I took a few photos of the area.



After lunch I got some photos of passengers waiting to get on the river again and soon challenge Warm Springs Rapid, the Lava Falls of the Yampa.

It was only a short distance to Tiger Wall, but first we travelled through the beautiful Red Rock Canyon.



Below is Tiger Wall. If you kiss the wall it will guarantee you will make it through Warm Springs Rapid safely.




We cruised through the several oxbows before Warm Springs. A water fight broke out.

On a rock wall along shore were big horn sheep.


We all heard the roar of Warm Springs well before we saw the entrance to these huge rapids.


Warm Springs Rapids were certainly to be scouted. There was a private party there before us but since we were going to run the rapids in two groups they waited until our first main group ran it first. Perhaps they were wanting to learn what line to take. If so, the lesson didn’t “take” for all of them.

Tony waited to take me through last, after most of our rafts and the private group ran the rapids, so I could get photos of most of the our rafts going through.




There were basically two lines through the rapids. The boat man could quickly head to the right bank (looking downstream) soon after entering the rapids and have a relatively safe ride. Or one could stay near the center and challenge some huge standing waves. I saw both approaches in action from shore and came very close to experiencing the challenging center route first hand from a raft.

Here is Joelle running Warm Springs taking the correct line to the left looking upstream.

Here is Matt, also taking the conservative line.

Pat in the paddle raft guided his crew through fine. Note how far to the left he started out. Who is that kid hamming it up for the camera?

Josh was the last of our first group to run the rapids.



After Josh ran Warm Springs Al took my camera to use it to photograph me coming through with Tony. But first the private group came through. I walked part way upstream to watch the action with Tony and Dakota. Two rafts made it through fine but the next one took the line through the middle of the river. The guy with the oars approached some big standing waves sideways. Tony and Dakota yelled, “TEE UP, TEE UP” meaning to turn the raft so it hit the waves perpendicular to them. But to no avail. I watched as the raft slowly rode the wave up and over landing upside down in the river. The two swimmers travelled downstream with the raft until it got hung up on a rock.

The next raft made it through fine, but the final one repeated the line through the middle and again tried it sideways. “TEE UP, TEE UP” again did no good. This time there were 4 swimmers and an overturned raft. One of the swimmers wound up across the river near the wrong bank and had a real tough swim to finally make it to the beach at Warm Springs Camp a short distance below the rapids.

I’m sorry I have no photos to document these adventures.

While I sat in Tony’s raft, Dakota disappeared around the corner as he entered Warm Springs Rapid. It was now our turn. Not wanting to take as conservative a line as the rest of our group, Tony entered the rapids near the middle then started paddling toward the conservative line. We banked off a large standing wave that the others didn’t experience and it fortunately tossed us in the right direction.

Here is Tony guiding me through. We had the most exciting ride of our group.

Our originally assigned camp site was Box Elder, but somehow we got it changed so we could camp right below Warm Springs Rapid. That was very fortunate because it allowed a relaxed exploration of the boulder slide site the next morning. Below is the beach at Warm Springs Camp. At the far end you might be able to spot some of the private party that we helped rescue.


Below is one of the private party working to repair an oarlock.


The three survivors of the Warm Springs landslide of 50 years earlier shared memories and viewed some of the photos Al took during our journey through the rapids.

Over the campfire after dinner, Bruce recounted his experience with George when the Warm Springs landslide occurred.


Early the next morning I made a 10-shot panorama of the Milky Way from a spot right next to my bed site. The light on the buttes is from the moon that rose at 1 AM, an hour before this photo was taken. Fortunately it was still hidden behind the hills to the east.


It was another wonderful day on the Yampa.  Here are some of the other photos I took on Day 3.

Here are some links to aid in navigation.

Green River

Yampa River

Dinosaur National Monument


Green River

Yampa River