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Ruby Horsethief2021-02-24T18:09:04-08:00

Ruby-Horsethief Canyon

The Ruby-Horsethief Canyon section of the Colorado River is a beautiful, flat water trip, for those searching for tranquility, not adrenaline. There are no rapids in this stretch, but many campsites, side hikes, swimming holes, and scenery to keep you entertained. This stretch is usually run as a 2-day trip, but it can be run in more days than this if you want to do additional side hikes, and take it a bit slower.

About this guide

This guide outlines Horsethief Canyon from Loma Boat Ramp to Westwater Boat Launch, covering camps, creeks, and points of interest along the way.

Safety

The Ruby – Horsethief Canyon is a beginner river run. This stretch is almost entirely flatwater, running through stunning canyon scenery, but at higher water, this river picks up in intensity.

Permits & Camping

While a river permit is not required for this section, you will need to reserve your camping sites ahead of time. Your camping permit needs to be carried with you at all times. River patrols are regular in this section and will ask to see your permits. Permits can be reserved two months in advance and allow for a maximum group size of 25. Keep in mind, dogs count towards your group size and there is a limit of two dogs per group. Children 16 years old and younger camp for free. During the months from April to October, you are charged a camping fee according to your group size for each campsite booked. From the months of November to March there is no camping fee charged but campsites still need to be reserved and you are charged a $6 reservation fee. All campsite bookings can be made through Recreation.gov at this link.

Shuttle Info

While you can pay for shuttle services this shuttle can easily be run before launching. It is a quick 30-minute shuttle from Loma Boat Launch to Westwater Boat launch, approximately one hour round trip. If you would like to pay for shuttle services you can call Rimrock Adventures.

Camping

A key piece of information to know about Ruby Horsethief is that campsite reservations MUST be made in advance. Luckily, you can easily check availability here. Please note that pets do count to your total group size.

The Ruby – Horsethief section of the Colorado River is raftable from 800 To 30,000 CFS.

There is a drastic flow range for this section of the river as it is on one of the largest drainages in the United States, the Colorado River. Flows can vary from 500 – 30,000+ CFS. It is recommended that family rafting trips launch when flows are below 5000 CFS. Canoeists should not launch when flows are above 20,000 CFS. Only highly skilled canoeists should attempt this stretch when flows are between 10,000 and 20,000 CFS. If flows are above 30,000 CFS extra care should be taken regardless of watercraft type.

Sometimes the USGS flow image breaks. If that happens, here is the direct link.

Colorado River Flow at Ruby Horsethief Canyon
Gauge data provided by Dream Flows

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Ruby-Horsethief Canyon River Map & Guide

Put-In / Take-Out

Commonly used access points.

Point of Interest

These include creeks, side hikes and historical markers.

Campgrounds

Riverside camping locations.

Loma Boat Launch to Westwater Boat Launch

The Colorado River winds its way through this scenic stretch, beginning in Fruita, Colorado, and ending in Westwater, Utah.

Length

Loma to Westwater is 25 miles.

Difficulty

Beginner.

Feet per Mile

Loma to Westwater is 6 FPM

Shuttle Time

Loma Boat Launch to Westwater Boat Launch is about an hour hour round trip. Google Map directions.

Mile 0 – Loma Boat Ramp – Put-in: River Right. Large area for rigging and unloading gear. Be sure to leave space for other groups. Parking is located 200 yards above the launch area. No camping at launch area or parking area. If you need camping at the put-in, then drive up river a few more miles to James Robb State Park Boat Launch. You can put camp and put in there.

Mile 3.24 – Rattlesnake: River Left. Rattlesnake campsite has a clay/rock landing with shade. Max group size is 14. Great layover opportunity if you want to hike all of Rattlesnake Canyon.

Mile 3.24 – Rattlesnake Canyon: River Left. Great hiking opportunity with natural arches. Access the trail at Rattlesnake camp or just downstream.

Mile 3.46 – Beavertail 1: River Right. This campsite has a cobblestone landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 3.54 – Beavertail 2: River Right. This campsite has a grass landing and offers shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 3.66 – Bull Draw: River Left. This campsite has a clay/rock landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 5.66 – Banjo Campsite: River Left. This campsite has a clay/rock landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 5.88 – Cottonwood 1: River Left. This campsite has a clay landing and has shade. Max group size is 25. Dogs must be on a leash at all Cottonwood sites.

Mile 5.94 – Cottonwood 2: River Left. Campsite has a cobblestone/clay landing and has shade. Max group size is 25. Dogs must be on a leash at all Cottonwood sites.

Mile 5.99 – Cottonwood 3: River Left. This campsite has a sand landing and offers shade. Max group size is 25. Dogs must be on a leash at all Cottonwood sites.

Mile 6.09 – Cottonwood 4: River Left. This campsite has a sand beach landing and offers shade. Max group size is 25. Dogs must be on a leash at all Cottonwood sites.

Mile 6.18 – Cottonwood 5: River Left. This campsite has a sand beach landing and offers shade. Max group size of 25. Dogs must be leashed at all Cottonwood sites.

Mile 7.96 – Salt Creek 1: River Left. This site has a grass landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 14. Hug the left bank two miles after the Cottonwood Bench.

Mile 8.01 – Salt Creek 2: River Left. This campsite has a grass landing and offers shade. Max group size is 14. Hug the left bank two miles downstream of the Cottonwood bench.

Mile 8.5 – Salt Creek : River Right. Salt Creek enters on River Right.

Mile 10.25 – Fault Line 1: River Left. This campsite has a grass landing and offers shade. Max group size is 14. This site can be easy to miss, especially at higher water flows. Talk with the ranger ahead of time to get detailed information on setting up for the landing. Look for the large cottonwoods where the river forks.

Mile 10.77 – Fault Line 2: River Left. This campsite has a cobblestone/sand beach landing and offers limited shade. Max group size is 14. Landing here can be difficult during high water. Be sure to take the left channel at Fault Line 1.

Mile 12.99 – Mee Corner: River Left. This site has a cobblestone/sand beach landing and offers shade. Max group size is 25. You can access hiking to Mee Canyon from here but there is better access from the other Mee sites.

Mile 13.38 – Mee 1: River Left. This site has a clay/grass landing and offers shade. Max group size is 25. Easy access to hiking in Mee Canyon. Dogs must be on a leash at all campsites along Mee Bench.

Mile 13.5 – Mee 2: River Left. This site has a clay/grass landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25. There is access to hiking in Mee Canyon. Dogs must be on a leash at all campsites along Mee Bench.

Mile 13.57 – Mee 3: River Left. This site has a clay/grass landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25. Access to hiking in Mee Canyon. Dogs must be on a leash at all campsites along Mee Bench.

Mile 13.65 – Mee 4: River Left. This site has a clay/grass landing and offers no shade. Access to hiking in Mee Canyon. Dogs must be on a leash at all campsites along Mee Bench.

Mile 13.88 – Mee Canyon: River Left. This site has a sand landing and offers shade. Max group size is 25. Best access for hiking Mee Canyon. Dogs must be on a leash at all campsites along Mee Bench.

Mile 14.05 – Mee Canyon: River Left. Large canyon with tons of exploring. The trailhead is roughly 8 miles from the river.

Mile 15.41 – Dog Island: River Left. This site has a cobblestone landing and offers shade. Max group size is 25. This site is on an island in the middle of the river. Be sure to be in the right channel of the island, the campsite will be on river left about 3/4 down the island.

Mile 16.08 – Split Rock: River Left. This campsite has a cobblestone landing and offers great shade. Max group size is 25. While this can accommodate 25, you will not be able to spread out very much. This site can be hard to land at during high water. Look for the stand of cottonwoods on river left just before the entrance of Black Rocks. Advisable to have someone ready with a rope during high water. You can access the Black Rock sites and Moore Canyon. Moore canyon is located downstream of Black Rocks.

Mile 16.28 – Black Rocks 1-9: These site are some of the most sought after. The river cuts through some of the oldest rocks on earth. This Vishnu Schist can also be seen in the Grand Canyon. Dogs must be on a leash at all Black Rocks sites. There is hiking access to Moore Canyon which is located on the downstream side of Black Rocks 9.

Mile 16.28 – Black Rocks 1: River Left. This site has a sand landing and no shade. Max group size is 25. This landing is very difficult at high water flows. Hug the left bank after passing Split rock. It will be in the middle of the bend in the river.

Mile 16.41 – Black Rocks 2: River Left. This site has a sand beach landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 16.48 – Black Rocks 3: River Left. This site has a sand beach landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 16.73 – Black Rocks 4: River Left. This site has a beach landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 16.82 – Black Rocks V: River Left. This site has a sand beach landing and offers some shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 16.92 – Black Rocks 6: River Left. This site has a sand beach landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 17.05 – Black Rocks 7: River Left. This site has a steep sand beach landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25. The eddy can be difficult to catch.

Mile 17.11 – Black Rocks 8: River Left. This site has a sand beach landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 17.21 – Black Rocks 9: River Left. This site has a sand beach landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25.

Mile 17.22 – Moore Canyon: River Left. Access the trail from any of the Black Rock sites. This is another large canyon that offers tons of exploring opportunities.

Mile 18.4 – Island Camp: River Right. This is a cobblestone/sand landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 5. Stay in the left river channel and the site will be on the island on River Right.

Mile 18.4 – McDonald Creek: River Right. This canyon features some pictographs. You must be in the river right channel in order to access this hike. The hike from the river to the trailhead is roughly 4 miles round trip. There is very little shade so be sure to bring plenty of water and maybe take a dip in the river before beginning your adventure.

Mile 18.6 – Knowles 1: River Left. This site has a cobblestone/sand beach landing and offers shade. Max group size is 25. This landing can be difficult at higher water flows. Hug the left bank and look for the grove of cottonwoods.

Mile 18.6 – Knowles Canyon: This is another great side canyon with lots to explore. Access the trail from Knowles 1. If you happen to be laying over at Knowles camp or want a big day hike, you can hike all the way back to Hell’s Hole. This is an amazing waterfall in the desert red rocks. It is roughly a 4 mile hike into the canyon, 8 miles round trip to Hell’s hole.

Mile 20.55 – May Flats: River Right. This site has a cobblestone landing and offers no shade. Max group size is 25. This site can be hard to locate. Look for the large boulders on river left, the site will be almost directly across the river on river right.

Mile 21.02 – Welcome to Utah: Utah/Colorado border

Mile 25.38 – Westwater Campground: River Right. This is a great site to book ahead of time if you are planning on a late take-out.

Mile 25.44 – Westwater Boat Launch – Take-out: River Right. Paved ramp large enough for two – three vehicles side by side. This launch can get busy so only use the ramp if you are ready to de-rig and load your vehicle. Otherwise, park your boats upstream on river right until you are ready. There is a second boat launch ramp just downstream. If the top one is busy, use the second one. Keep in mind that this launch is designated for trips launching for Westwater.

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