Ruby Horsethief Canyon Permits

Mcinnis Canyons National Conservation Area

The Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado River runs through beautiful red rock canyons and has many day hike opportunities offering both solitude and exploration. This section of the canyon, from Loma, Colorado, to Westwater, Utah, is a 25-mile stretch of mostly flat water with sections of Class I and II rapids. The Black Rocks section is composed of rock known as Vishnu schist, which dates back about 1.7 billion years. This same rock is exposed in certain sections of the Grand Canyon. 

There is an abundance of wildlife in the area including great blue herons, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, mule deer, and desert bighorn sheep. Look up in old cottonwoods trees and you are likely to spot nests and eagles. Please note that humans are prohibited from approaching within a half-mile of eagle nests or harassing the birds in any way. 

Motorized use is allowed in Ruby-Horsethief. Visitors can expect to see motorized and non-motorized craft in Ruby-Horsethief.

 Floaters: Be aware that powerboats can only travel in narrow channels in some sections of river. Even though float boats have the right-of-way in the river, powerboats work hard coming upstream. As a courtesy, pull to one side of the channel, if possible, when you see a powerboat coming and let it by.

Powerboaters: Be cautious and courteous when passing other boats, especially when they are moored along shore. Slow down if possible, and give them a wide berth. You must also slow to a "no wake" speed at boat landing facilities.

Upstream motorized travel is prohibited downriver of the Colorado/Utah state line.

For experienced boaters looking to lengthen their trip and add some whitewater, consider continuing downriver through Westwater Canyon. Westwater Canyon River Permits can be found here. Westwater Canyon is a challenging stretch of river at all water levels and is only recommended for experienced boaters. This 17 mile stretch of river includes 11 named rapids that range in difficulty from class I to class IV. The canyon may be run in one long day or as an overnight trip.

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

Due to limited camping in this 25-mile stretch of the Colorado, overnight camping permits are required year-round and must be reserved in advance. 

Reservations for Ruby-Horsethief camping permits can be made 2 months in advance on a daily rolling window. Reservations currently open at midnight. However, come May 2020 reservations will open at 8:00 am MDT. 

Visitors can reserve multi-night trips within the open window. 

Visitors are limited to one active reservation at a time. 

Visitors can have multiple permits per year. 

A permit is not required for day use in Ruby-Horsethief.

Need to Know

Read the complete rules and regulations for Ruby-Horsethief.

Seasonal Information: 
Ruby-Horsethief is a remote section of river with spotty to non-existent cell service. There are no take-outs until Westwater, and rescues are long and cumbersome. Conditions vary depending on seasonal flows, especially for canoeists. Spring weather can be extremely variable with hot days followed by snow followed by high winds followed by cold rains. Expect strong headwinds from Black Rocks to Westwater most afternoons, especially in the spring. Summer days can be very hot and buggy. There is little shade along the river. Rain storms are usually short but somewhat violent. Summer nights are usually comfortable. Fall provides the most consistent weather with warm days, cool nights, and infrequent rain. However, several days of long, cold, heavy and steady rain can occur at any time. The key is being prepared for almost anything!

Streamflow: 
Along this section of river you will encounter Class I and II rapids. It is recommended you check the streamflow data when planning your trip, especially during spring runoff, which can vary greatly from year to year. Extra care is needed with any type of watercraft when the streamflow is over 30,000 CFS (cubic feet per second). Canoes are not recommended at all until the streamflow drops below 20,000 CFS, and between 10,000 and 20,000 CFS only highly experienced canoeists should attempt this section of river. Family raft trips are best done when the river drops to below 5,000 CFS. Spring runoff causes the river to become muddy with heavy debris and cold temperatures.

You can also check the Colorado River Outfitters Association Water Report.

Do not book a camp for night two or three of your trip that is upstream from the camp(s) you plan to stay at on night one or two. Campsite miles are listed in the campsite name and in the details for each site. You must camp at your assigned site. If you reserve an upstream camp and cannot get back to it, you must float all the way to the takeout at Westwater, UT.

Fee Policy

Reservation Fee

A $6.00 non-refundable fee is required for each permit reserved.

Recreation Fees

From April through October, there is a fee for the overnight camping permit and reservation. Children 16 years old and under camp for free. There is a strict limit of two dogs per group. There is a maximum of 25 individuals per group, including adults, children and dogs. Dogs are considered part of your permit's group total and fees are charged for dogs just as they are for adults over 16.

Please note: From November through March, an overnight camping permit is required, however, only the reservation fee is charged. Recreation fees for camping are not charged November through March.

Group Size Cost per Night
1-5 $20.00 per night
6-14 $50.00 per night
15-25 $100.00 per night

Cancellation Policy

Permits canceled eight or more days before the launch date will receive a refund for the camping fees. The $6 reservation fee is non-refundable. Permits cancelled seven days or less before the launch gives other boaters the opportunity to use the site, but no refund will be given.

You can make changes to the permit until the permit is printed. Do not print your permit until you are sure that you will not need to make any more changes. Changes must be made by the group leader.

Contact Information

Mailing Address

2815 H Road Grand Junction CO 81506

Hours of operation: Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Phone Number

970-244-3000

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