Crossing Utah - the Green and Colorado
Written by Los Alamos Monitor   
Sunday, 21 November 2004 09:25

Dave Yeamans was rafting alone when he smashed his foot in Desolation Canyon. Although his bones weren't broken, he abraded a tendon, was deeply bruised, and still has bandages after five weeks of recovery.

Yeamans says: "It was bad, bad enough that when it was happening I thought about Aron Ralston who had to cut off his arm to save his life." His choices were similar to Ralston's: hurt yourself or die. And like Ralston, Yeamans' misery was his own fault.

Dave was rafting across Utah on the Green and Colorado Rivers. About twice as long as the Grand Canyon, and filled with river challenges, the Green River traverses scenic Lodore Canyon and cuts a 5,000-foot deep gorge through the Tavaputs Plateau before joining the Colorado in Canyonlands National Park.

Running free between man-made Lake Powell and Flaming Gorge Reservoir, about 400 miles of near-wilderness river are available to a person with time, skill, equipment, and enough luck to collect all the quota-driven permits necessary.

Dave Yeamans completed this journey in the summer of 2004. Asked why he did the trip, Dave said "I just needed more time on the river. Every river trip ends with packing up and going home, but at every trip's end I found myself looking down-river and thinking I should just keep on boating. This time I did it."

Dave has over 40 years of river-running experience, having started with Explorer Post 20 (Boy Scouts of America) in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the early 1960s, and went on to work as a river guide and instructor for eleven years. He designed and built the boat that carried him for 26 days on his most recent, mostly solo river adventure.

Yeamans grew up loving rivers. Some of his earliest memories are of being rescued by his father on various fishing trips in Oregon. Living from age 5 in Los Alamos, New Mexico, he continued his interest in rivers by following his brothers into Explorer Post 20, the local Boy Scout group that still makes river adventures their specialty.

Every year in middle school and high school he rafted, kayaked, canoed, and swam during spring and summer on the Rio Grande, Rio Chama, and faraway "big" rivers like the Colorado, Green, Salmon, San Juan, and Snake. After leaving Los Alamos High School in 1966, Dave earned his living as a river guide in Utah, Idaho, and Grand Canyon. Later he became an instructor and course director in the Outward Bound School's river program where he met his wife Marilyn.

Dave returned to Los Alamos and worked with Post 20 as an adult advisor for many years where he gave quite a few guides, park river rangers, and outfitters their start. He raised his own family close to the river, and goes on river trips with them several times a year. Dave has designed, patented, and built a variety of boats and rescue equipment for his river-running passion.

Dave said, "My interest has always been spending time on the river regardless of the remoteness, or the notoriety of the place, or the intensity of the white water. To me, it is far more important to be with the river than to conquer it."

To that end, Yeamans went on his 4-week trip down the Green River, traversing lonely and dull sections of river with extreme beauty and sublime isolation not found in the more popular canyons and rapids.

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