In the 1950s, an ambitious plan was developed to build a series of dams on the Colorado River and many of its tributaries to supply power and water to the growing cities of the southwest. One of the key projects in this plan was the dam at Echo Park at the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers in what is now Dinosaur National Monument. The battle by the Sierra Club to stop the precedent-setting construction of a dam in a national monument was one of the turning points of the environmental movement. The dam was stopped, but traded away in the process was opposition to the Glen Canyon Dam, which ultimately flooded hundreds of miles of the Colorado and created Lake Powell.
Today Echo Park is accessible via a rugged 12-mile dirt road (high-clearance vehicles recommended) off of Harpers Corner Road. The road passes through beautiful Sand Canyon, and at the bottom is the historic and interesting Chew Ranch site with many original buildings and artifacts. Just 3 miles further is Echo Park itself, dominated by the impressive Steamboat Rock. There is a small, primitive campground on the river which is quite popular, and there are several trails to explore the area. The Mitten Park Trail clings to the cliffs above the Green downstream from the campground, and the Sand Canyon Trail heads upstream along the Yampa.
Echo Park is a powerful place sometimes called the “Center of the Universe.” There is no question that it is a special part of the earth, and it is well worth spending considerable time exploring.
Note: Like all primitive roads in the desert, the Echo Park Road can be dangerous and impassible after rains, so be sure to check on road conditions at the visitor center before attempting this adventure. High-clearance vehicles are recommended.