Places We Protect

Yampa River Preserve


A broad river with trees on its bankand hills in the background.
Yampa River Preserve TNC Yampa River Preserve, Hayden, Colorado. © Alan W. Eckert

Abundant wildlife enjoy this lush streamside habitat.




Seventeen miles west of Steamboat Springs, the Yampa River drops through a narrow gap before flowing onto one of the broadest floodplains in western Colorado. The preserve is located on the eastern edge of this floodplain.  

What to Expect

This preserve is beautiful throughout the spring, fall and winter, but mosquitoes can be unrelenting during the summer.

Why TNC Selected This Site

How does the Yampa River support such an extensive riparian ecosystem?

Its natural flooding processes are relatively intact. When the river floods, the rushing water slowly erodes banks and deposits new sediments, allowing the river channel to shift. This "river dance" helps to establish new streamside forests and wetlands.

Another reason for protection: This preserve harbors one of the largest remaining examples of a rare riparian forest type dominated by narrowleaf cottonwood, box elder and red-osier dogwood.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

The Conservancy has protected 8,800 acres along a 10-mile stretch of the Yampa River.

The Conservancy's long-term goal in the Valley is to provide conservation-based alternatives to traditional land management practices. We pursue this goal through these and other conservation tools that provide landowners with creative options for protecting their land:

  • Conservation easements
  • Assisting with management plans
  • Cooperative stewardship projects with the Colorado State Land Board (SLB), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and private landowners. 





Wildlife watching, hiking, snowshoeing and other nature-based activities. 


The Conservancy has protected 8,800 acres along a 10-mile stretch of the Yampa River through Morgan Bottom, including more than 500 acres of broad floodplain in the Yampa River Preserve.

Explore our work in Colorado

How to Prepare for Your Visit

Pack your insect repellant. Consider visiting the Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch while you're in the area. Please leave pets at home while you enjoy the native plants and animals at this preserve. 

When to Visit

Open year-round, dawn to dusk

Why You Should Visit

The Yampa is one of the few rivers remaining in the West that can support an extensive riparian (streamside) ecosystem.

The scenic Morgan Bottoms section of the preserve is open to the public. You can enjoy a lovely walk (two miles roundtrip) through the heart of the cottonwood forest, which is nestled within a canyon along the banks of the Yampa. On a good day, you might see an elk pausing for a cool drink, or a bald eagle keeping watch from a tree by water's edge.

This preserve protects acres of lush riparian forest and upland habitats that provide home to an abundance of wildlife. During the winter, this is a great place for a short, peaceful outing on cross-country skis or snowshoes.

Spend time exploring the preserve and keeping watch for a variety of plants and animals.


The Conservancy's Yampa River Preserve contains some of the highest-quality occurrences of the globally rare box elder-narrowleaf cottonwood/red-osier dogwood plant community. The preserve includes about three miles of river frontage.


Beaver, elk, bald eagles, mink, mule deer, Swainson's thrush, river otter, grey cat bird