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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

The Yampa River Preserve

June 15th, 2012 · 3 Comments

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When my friend Marveen invited me to visit her in Steamboat Springs earlier this month, I jumped at the chance. Marveen was born and raised in this town of 12,000 people in northwest Colorado long before it became famous as one of the country’s top ski resorts. She now lives in Nikiski, Alaska, with her husband Wayne, but often comes back to Steamboat Springs to help take care of her stepmother.

I hadn’t seen Marveen since her trip to Colorado in February, when we went hiking together in the Denver area. We had originally met last August at the wedding of my best friend John to Marveen’s sister Vicky.

Besides wanting to visit with someone who shares so many of my interests, I was more than ready to travel again, because I hadn’t left home since my friend Sharon and I went to Southeast Arizona to go birding in April. While Steamboat Springs is less than four hours by road from my home in Boulder, it’s on the west side of the Continental Divide and has a different feel from the city where I live. It feels to me like the real West. Growing up the the urban West of Southern California, I always had the strange notion that the real West stopped at the Continental Divide, a prejudice that I have never been able to totally shake.

I had visited Steamboat Springs at least three times between 1952 and 2011, but never spent more than a day at a time there. So this time I researched the area’s outdoor attractions and quickly decided that for me they revolved around the Yampa River.

I had fallen in love with this river when I camped at the place the river ends. It ends by flowing into the Green River at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument. Downstream from there the Green flows into the Colorado River.

The approximately 250 miles of the Yampa River are essentially free flowing. It is in fact the only major free flowing river in the West. This short online film, “The Last One — A Yampa River Awareness Documentary,” beautifully tells the story of this important river with a strange name.

When my research brought the Yampa River Preserve to my attention, I knew that I had to visit it. This is a preserve of The Nature Conservancy, which I support with my membership. At this preserve the conservancy protects 6,000 acres as along a 10-mile stretch of the river.

The Yampa River Preserve is just 17 miles west of Steamboat Springs, and I headed there early in the morning of my the first day of my visit. But it was hard to find. Eventually after looking in vain for it, I stopped a State Trooper (better than the other way around) and got directions from him.

The only trail through the preserve took me along the river on the outbound leg of my trip and along an irrigation canal known as the Marshall Roberts Ditch on my return.

The Yampa River Borders the Yampa River Preserve

The Yampa River Borders the Yampa River Preserve

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The first animal to greet me made me think that I was back in civilization. I heard its warning to its family before I saw it. The warning sounded exactly like a smoke alarm.

The animal was a marmot. I was surprised not only by its warning but also by seeing it here. I had never seen one below 11,000 to 12,000 feet, and the elevation of the preserve is less than 7,000 feet.

This Marmot Was on Guard Duty

This Marmot Was on Guard Duty

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A little later three young White-tailed Deer were so curious about this visitor to their land that they walked directly toward me.

Three Young Bucks Study a Visitor

Three Young Bucks Study a Visitor

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Just then I spotted flashes of yellow in one of the trees. They were a pair of American Goldfinches.

Do American Goldfinches Kiss?

Do American Goldfinches Kiss?

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The Marshall Roberts Ditch looks more like a small stream than an irrigation canal.

The Marshall Roberts Ditch Flows Slowly

The Marshall Roberts Ditch Flows Slowly

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This Meadow Surrounds the Marshall Roberts Ditch

This Meadow Surrounds the Marshall Roberts Ditch

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The path that I walked is barely visible at the right side of this photo. It was all that this visitor needed.

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Posted in: Photography

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Patricia Mathews // Jun 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for a little meandering stream of thought that’s not about diabetes. Not meant in a bad way, enjoy those too, just diabetes is not fun. And stories of Colorado, I so want to be there. Thanks for a couple of pictures for my files, too.
    Patricia Mathews

  • 2 Andrea // Jun 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    If you have never been East, try hiking in the Presidential range and area of Franconia Notch or up in the North Country of NH. There are lovely trail, lakes, ponds, waterfalls and places to fish and see moose and deer and birds and birds of all kinds! You would be welcomed!

  • 3 David Mendosa // Jun 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Dear Andrea,

    Thank you for your invitation to your part of the world. I lived in Maryland, Virginia, and DC for more years than I can count, so I have been quite a bit east of here. Still, I have only driven through your area — so far.

    David

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