Learn how to Plan an In a single day Ruby-Horsethief Canyon Float – Bearfoot Principle

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I used to be decided to not let out of doors adventures stop when my husband and I made a decision to develop into mother and father. 5 months into my being pregnant, I realized in regards to the pretty flat, family-friendly Ruby-Horsethief canyon part of the Colorado River and determined to strive for a allow.

I used to be intimidated however intrigued by an in a single day river journey. I had many hesitations (particularly being seven months pregnant!), however this journey is doable for a first-time rafter or household, and, extra importantly, it’s price it!

This weblog submit will put together you for easy methods to get a allow, select the proper watercraft, pack the precise gear, coordinate a shuttle, and extra. Begin planning your float of the Ruby-Horsethief canyon part of the Colorado River with this whole information!

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Ruby-Horsethief Canyon Fundamentals

  • Location: Loma, CO to Westwater, Utah
  • Closest main airport: Salt Lake Metropolis Worldwide Airport (SLC) or Denver Worldwide Airport (DEN). They’re practically equidistance from Loma, CO (4 hours driving)
  • Size: 25 miles
  • Days wanted: 2 days/1 night time (or 3 days/2 nights when you’ve got extra time)
  • River issue: Class I/II Rapids
  • Canine-friendly? Sure, not more than two canines per social gathering
  • Allow wanted? Required, extra data under
  • Motors? Allowed
  • Circulation requirement: Household floats are finest performed when the river drops to under 5,000 CFS, max stream 30,000 CFS
  • Greatest time of 12 months to drift: Might – October
A raft floating through Ruby-Horsethief Canyon on the Colorado River

The Ruby-Horsethief part of the Colorado River is amazingly scenic with towering canyon partitions on both aspect.

This 25-mile stretch flows between Loma, Colorado and Westwater, Utah (sure, you get to cross the Utah border on watercraft!).

It’s pretty flat with class I/II rapids, excellent for first-time rafters, households, or these on the lookout for a calming and enjoyable journey.

It’s a very fashionable float space, so you’ll probably run into different teams, however campsites are unfold out so you must have loads of house.

We made the journey one night time, however some individuals stretch it to a number of nights or do it in in the future.

Permits should not required if finishing the 25-mile stretch in in the future, however I extremely advocate soaking within the sights and making it an overnighter. There may be an abundance of wildlife together with bald eagles, bighorn sheep, mule deer, nice blue herons, and extra to not point out the unbelievable surroundings!

Packraft coming down river with small rapids on Ruby-Horsethief Canyon section of the Colorado River
Mellow Class I/II rapids are the one rapids you’ll discover on the Ruby-Horsethief part of the Colorado River

Greatest Time of 12 months to Float Ruby-Horsethief Canyon

The very best time to drift Ruby-Horsethief Canyon is from Might by means of October for optimum water ranges and temperatures. Permits are required all 12 months lengthy.


Fall offers probably the most constantly heat days, cool nights, much less probability of thunderstorms, and decrease flows for mellower rapids.

We floated Ruby-Horsethief Canyon in early September which offered the proper climate. The highs have been within the higher 80F and nights have been within the 70s F.

View from water of Colorado River with tall rock bluffs on either side
Picture credit score: Leah Montera

Nonetheless, even in September, we encountered cool mornings, sizzling days, bugs, and robust headwinds at instances. li

Within the morning we wore light-weight long-sleeve shirts to heat up. When it warmed up all through the day we jumped out and in of the water to remain cool.

Within the afternoon we hit horrible headwinds that slowed the tempo significantly.

Lastly, at camp, the bugs have been very dangerous and have been consistently buzzing us, in order that’s one thing to be ready for.


Spring climate can range vastly with sizzling days, chilly nights, snow, and rain.

Summer time

Due to the shortage of shade, summer season days could be very popular and buggy and vulnerable to thunderstorms. Nonetheless, summertime is sort of widespread for floating this part.


It’s not ultimate to drift this part within the winter or early spring as chilly climate and excessive runoff are harmful components.

Regardless of whenever you go, it’s important to be ready and conscious of the climate and pure parts. This part of the river is distant with very restricted cell service and no takeout factors till Westwater.

Varieties of Watercraft to Use on Your Ruby-Horsethief Canyon Float

There are various several types of watercraft you possibly can tackle this part of the Colorado River. Right here’s a breakdown of the professionals/cons of every:

Stand-Up Paddleboard

I floated the two-day journey on an inflatable stand-up paddleboard. Within the rapids, I’d drop all the way down to my knees as my stability was compromised at seven months pregnant. The others in my group not often needed to drop to their knees and will navigate the rapids on their SUPs simply.

The inflatable paddleboards have been nice for transporting to the put-in and from the take-out. Having the ability to deflate the paddleboards allowed us to all squeeze into a big SUV on the shuttle again to the Loma boat launch.

The paddleboards have been handy for journey, however they left minimal room for storage for our in a single day provides. Something saved on the paddleboards needed to be waterproofed as all the pieces was consistently getting moist.

Two people on standup paddleboards on Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado Rivewr
Picture credit score: Leah Montera

Kayak or Canoe

Two individuals in our group have been in a tandem inflatable kayak rented from Rimrock Adventures. The kayak was dropped off by Rimrock Adventures and picked up for us on the Westwater take-out ramp.

Kayaks and canoes present a way more laidback journey and loads of storage. The kayak passengers weren’t uncovered to as a lot water splashing. Nonetheless, there have been fewer alternatives to casually leap out and in when attempting to chill off than these of us on paddleboards.

Hardshell kayaks would work properly and supply storage that isn’t consistently uncovered to water versus a SUP. Hardshell kayaks are additionally simpler to regulate, particularly within the afternoon wind.

Canoes should not beneficial for streamflow above 20,000 CFS. Between 10,000-20,000 CFS is simply beneficial for extremely skilled canoeists. Canoes are finest used when water is under 5,000 CFS.

Canoes may also be onerous to regulate, particularly with the afternoon winds. They supply ample storage however be certain all the pieces is waterproofed in case of tipping!


By and enormous, rafts are the most well-liked type of watercraft to drift Ruby-Horsethief. Rafts present room for giant teams and plenty of provides. Rafts may also be rented from a number of retailers in Grand Junction, CO, or Fruita, CO, with supply and choose up.

Rafts will permit the house to deliver luxurious tenting gadgets like coolers, umbrellas, yard video games, and extra. Nonetheless, rafts are massive and make shuttling with no business rental firm a lot more durable. Moreover, most rafts require just one paddler, which leaves others to lounge and never get the full-paddling expertise.

BFT staff member Linda rafted Ruby-Horsethief Canyon and beloved the house and leisure the raft offered. Her group introduced their very own rafts and had two automobiles and a trailer so that they have been in a position to self-shuttle.

Two people sitting in packraft on Colorado River with two umbrella shading them from the sun
Packrafts help you deliver extra luxuries like solar umbrellas!

What to Pack for a Ruby-Horsethief Canyon Float

Under are a couple of gear suggestions particular to an in a single day journey on the Ruby-Horsethief part of the Colorado River:

  • Consuming water: This portion of the Colorado River is just too silty to filter, so you need to pack in your entire consuming water. Convey loads of water as there’s little shade and the summer season days are sizzling!

Tip: If bringing a cooler for meals, freeze water in plastic gallon jugs to make use of as ice, then drink the water because it melts.

  • Rest room system: You should have a hard-sided bathroom system that’s large enough to accommodate everybody within the group. Wag luggage alone should not permitted. You will discover detailed bathroom laws on the allow web site. A number of outfitters hire out bathroom techniques.
  • Restore kits: The kind of watercraft your group has will decide the restore kits you want. Ensure to have sufficient to accommodate all the journey. Along with the restore package, be sure to have an air pump to inflate the watercraft after repairs.
  • Metallic hearth pan: A hearth pan is required to be carried on all journeys, even when stoves are getting used for cooking. The pan must be at the least 12” in diameter with a 2-inch lip across the periphery.
  • Private Floatation System (PFD): The rental firm ought to present an applicable life jacket in case you hire a watercraft. If not, you’re required by legislation to have a PFD authorised for whitewater kind I, III, or V. Youngsters below 13 should be sporting a PFD always.
  • Spare paddle: Your group wants one spare paddle for each three low-capacity vessels, together with kayaks or inflatable kayaks.
  • Throw rope: Every boat 12 toes or longer will need to have a throwable machine or commercially made rescue rope with at the least 40 toes of line and a horn or whistle for emergencies
  • Bug spray: The bugs on the campsite throughout our journey in September have been horrible! This may range by time of 12 months, but it surely’s finest to be ready.

For a complete information on what to pack for an in a single day river journey, try our information to kayak tenting.

Packraft loaded with gear and shaded with two unbrellas pulled up on beach on Colorado River

4-Steps to Planning an In a single day Ruby-Horsethief Canyon Float Journey

1. Reserve a tenting allow

The entry level for this river journey is in Loma, CO, and the endpoint is Westwater, UT. Past the takeout is the Westwater Canyon, which requires a further allow and superior ability.

Permits are required for in a single day journeys in Ruby-Horsethief year-round. Allow reservations could be made two months upfront on a each day rolling window. Reservations open at 8 am MST.

Screenshot of Ruby Horsethief permit page on Recreation.gov
Permits can be found year-round and could be made two months upfront

2. Select a campsite

All of the campsites alongside the 25-mile stretch are unbelievable. They every provide one thing distinctive.

At mile 13, Mee Nook is the primary of a number of campsites that may entry Mee Canyon trailhead, which gives mountain climbing and exploring alternatives.

The preferred campsites are Canine Island for a personal island really feel and websites within the superb Vishnu schist Black Rocks part.

Your allow is restricted to the campsite you select, so you possibly can’t simply determine whenever you’re on the river.

Tent set up at Cottonwood campsite surrounded by cottonwood trees at Ruby Horsethief Canyon
BFT staff member Linda camped at Cottonwood Camp throughout her journey

3. Reserve a rental

There are a number of locations to hire watercraft from in Grand Junction, CO, and Fruita, CO in case you don’t have your individual.

A number of the rental firms will present drop off to the Loma boat launch and choose up on the finish of the journey along with shuttle companies.

4. E book a shuttle

This can be a very fashionable float journey with straightforward point-to-point logistics. We had two automobiles and dropped one at Westwater the morning of the beginning of our float.

Loma boat ramp and Westwater boat ramp are roughly 40 minutes from one another.

Native shuttles can be found in case you don’t have two automobiles out there.

Moore Canyon Ruby Horsethief Canyon on the Colorado River

My Ruby-Horsethief Canyon Journey Report

Day 0: Drive to Fruita, CO

After driving 4 hours from Denver and attending to Fruita, CO we ate dinner on the well-known Sizzling Tomato Pizza and fueled up for the subsequent day’s journey.

Day 1: Loma put-in to Fault Line 2 Campsite

Within the morning, we set off at 6 am to drop off one of many automobiles on the Westwater takeout boat ramp. Fortunately the drive between put-in and take-out places is simply about 40 minutes one-way.

We drove to Loma put-in boat ramp and met Rimrock Adventures, who dropped the inflatable kayak and bathroom system our group rented. Many teams have been getting their boats prepared, so it was good to talk with individuals in regards to the journey forward!

We loaded up our SUPs and kayak with our gear and began the journey. The views are unbelievable proper from the beginning!

Tall red rock bluffs rising up from water on the Colorado River in Utah through Ruby-Horsethief Canyon

The journey was very informal. The river stays good and large, and everybody can take the journey at their very own velocity. Because it was sizzling, we jumped out and in of the river to remain cool. Just a few hours in, we determined to cease for lunch on one of many sandy shores. We introduced dehydrated meals since they have been the simplest and lightest for us to pack.

After lunch, we returned to our boats and loved the leisurely float to our campsite. At about 2 pm, the wind picked up considerably, which made the SUPs onerous to steer and transfer ahead. By then, we have been glad we have been nearly to our campsite, Fault Line 2.

I like to recommend getting an early begin and being ready for robust afternoon winds most days.

The campsites are well-marked and straightforward to tug into. We obtained on shore and have been in a position to arrange tents, eat, lounge, and calm down earlier than dusk.

Whereas Fault Line 2 didn’t have any established trails, lots of the campsites provide aspect hikes and exploration. We camped on the sandy seaside and there have been a couple of cottonwood timber that offered shade throughout the afternoon.

The bugs have been horrible – remember to deliver bug spray!

Day 2: Fault Line 2 Campsite to Takeout

The subsequent morning we set off fairly early, which offered solitude on the river. It was nonetheless a bit chilly within the shade however warmed up shortly.

We pulled onto the shore to discover black rocks, which was superb to see. There have been lots of people exploring, cliff diving, and packing up campsites. Shortly after the black rocks part (mile 18.1), on river proper, is a hike to petroglyphs. I want we’d have saved sufficient time to see them!

Paddlers floating through narrow Black Rock section of Colorado River
Floating previous the Black Rocks on day 2 | Picture credit score: Leah Montara

As a result of we explored, ate lunch, and took our time on the second day, we hit the afternoon wind once more. All of us discovered it onerous to repeatedly paddle and steer our light-weight watercraft within the headwind.

It wasn’t lengthy earlier than we have been looking forward to the Westwater takeout. It was very crowded, so we needed to be strategic in the place we pulled up. Everybody was unloading their watercraft and getting issues packed up and into automobiles or vans for the shuttle again to Loma.

A raft floating through Ruby-Horsethief Canyon on the Colorado River

Closing Ideas

The Ruby-Horsethief Canyon float is a unbelievable journey for households or these on the lookout for a calming few days out on the river. In case you can, I like to recommend doing a 3-day / 2-night float so you possibly can spend a while exploring the paths, petroglyphs, and different cool sights alongside the canyon.

Have an awesome float!

Desirous about extra floating and paddling adventures? Try these associated weblog posts:

Have you ever floated the Ruby-Horsethief River? What was your journey like? Is that this a visit you’d be concerned about doing? Depart a remark under!

You may see extra of Leah’s work at

Discover the ultimate adventure of floating down the stunning Ruby Horsethief Canyon that straddles the border of Utah and Colorado! Our latest blog post reveals all you need to know for a successful trip, including where to start and end, essential equipment, and must-see sights along the way. Get ready to immerse yourself in nature's beauty and experience the thrill of a lifetime on this unforgettable journey down the Colorado River.

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