Protecting the Yampa River and its Native Fishes

Bart Miller“We love the Yampa and its native fishes – because our wild river wouldn’t be the same without them. Working together, we are hopeful that we can restore the river and its fishes back to health.”

– Bart Miller, Healthy Rivers Program Director

The Yampa River is One of the West’s Last Wild Rivers

The Yampa River is a 250 mile long river in northwestern Colorado and that flows west into the Green River, which then meets the Colorado River. From its source along the Continental Divide, the river flows through Steamboat Springs and Craig and meets the Green river in Dinosaur National Monument near the Colorado-Utah border. This amazing river is prized for trout in its headwaters, pastoral scenery in its middle reaches, and red, yellow and orange canyons at its lower end. For much of its length, this is a wide shallow river with occasional whitewater rapids and is one of the West’s last wild rivers. Since it has only a few small dams and diversions, it still has lively spring peak flows each year.

The Yampa is loved for its boating, recreation, and fishing. It also provides water to northwestern Colorado communities and agriculture.

Native Endangered Fishes Live in the Yampa River

The Yampa River is one of a few river homes to four endangered fishes – the Humpback chub, Bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and Razorback sucker. These are unique fishes – for example the Colorado pikeminnow can reach six feet long and is one of the world’s largest minnows! Throughout the Upper Colorado River Basin, we have almost lost these four fish species because of dams that have blocked them from their historic range, predatory invasive species, and severe changes to the natural flow due to diversions from the river.


Western Resource Advocates Partners on Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and Supports Important Fish Research

Western Resource Advocates has joined a partnership to save four endangered fishes in the Yampa River – the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. This partnership includes the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, the State of Colorado, local water users, and other agencies and stakeholders. One goal of our recovery effort has been to show that native species conservation and water development can be compatible. The program removes barriers to four endangered fishes so they can recover to self-sustaining populations. There are multiple projects that are part of the Recovery Program, including construction of fish passage structures that have opened up hundreds of miles of river to fish migration.

In addition, Western Resource Advocates and The Nature Conservancy supported Dr. Kevin Bestgen’s research on the role of Yampa River streamflows in maintaining native fish populations and habitats in the Yampa and Middle Green Rivers. Native fishes are one of the many important and valued river resources of Dinosaur National Monument. There is an extensive body of scientific research and study on these native fishes, much of which was funded by the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. Dr. Bestgen’s research improves our general understanding and highlights the importance of streamflows in maintaining these significant natural resources.

Other Resources

You can access the report through the National Park Service Integrated Resource Management Applications (IRMA) database here, or you can download it directly here.

For more on the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program visit 

Project Staff

rob harris 2019

Robert Harris

Senior Staff Attorney

bart miller 2019

Bart Miller

Healthy Rivers Program Director