RATING: Class II
CFS RANGE: 1,000 - 30,000
CURRENT CFS: 3,000
LENGTH: 1-3 days
GEAR: Standard paddling gear, bug spray in the summer.
MAPS: Mack, CO; Ruby Canyon, CO; Bitter Creek Well, UT; Westwater, UT
SEASON: Spring through fall.
NOTES: This float requires a shuttle. Local shuttles can be hired if two cars aren't available. On busy weekends, it is likely you can share a ride with others, it is a popular trip.
Looking for a casual family float trip? Ruby / Horsethief provides a very mellow 25-mile float with one rapid, generally considered class II. This is a good trip for beginners or families. Aside from the one rapid, and short section of turbulent water, the other 24 miles is very easy and relaxing. The scenery is second to none, with ample opportunity for side hikes.
The flow should be BELOW 30,000 CFS for rafts. For those in a canoe, less than 20,000 CFS if experienced, less than 10,000 CFS if inexperienced. For family trips, lower is better. Note that afternoon winds can slow down the trip greatly.
Take the Loma exit (exit 15) off I-70 just inside Colorado. Go south off the highway, making an immediate left at the T. The boat ramp and parking is less than a mile from this junction.
Travel back into Utah on I-70 for about 5 miles to the Westwater exit. (Exit 227). Travel south off the highway for about 9 miles to the ranger station, picnic area, and boat ramp.
The shuttle takes about 45 minutes each way.
|Put-In||12S 689430mE 4338424mN|
|Rattlesnake Canyon||12S 684666mE 4337254mN|
|Old Cabin||12S 678600mE 4340884mN|
|Mee Canyon||12S 676824mE 4336339mN|
|Black Rocks Start||12S 673242mE 4335884mN|
|Rapid||12S 673006mE 4335072mN|
|Black Rocks End||12S 672453mE 4334341mN|
|Pictograph Side Canyon||12S 670933mE 4334042mN|
|Pictograph||12S 670787mE 4334296mN|
|Knowles Canyon||12S 670993mE 4333315mN|
|Takeout||12S 664242mE 4328163mN|
From the put-in, simply float down the river. Ruby Canyon is the first canyon you'll enter. Watch the walls for impressive numbers of swallow nests clinging the cliff overhangs. Ruby is relatively short, but Rattlesnake Canyon comes in on the left in this stretch. Rattlesnake Canyon has the second largest concentration of arches in the world, after Arches National Park in Utah, although it is a strenuous and long hike to reach them from the river. Soon Ruby Canyon gives way to Horsethief Canyon. It is easy to recognize the difference, as the railroad beginners parallelling the river at the start of Horsethief and follows the river for the rest of the trip.
Several side canyons along the way provide ample hiking opportunities for the ambitious. The water is flat, and easy paddling until about 2/3 of the way through, when you reach Black Rocks.
Black Rocks is easy to recognize, as it is the place where the river makes an abrupt left turn and black metamorphic rock appears. This is some of the oldest rock in the area and marks the beginning of a mile long section of turbulent water. About 1/2 way through this mile long section, several large boulders form the obvious rapid. Staying far left will avoid it for the most part. Once past the rapid, the turbulent water quickly eases, and it's back to flat water.
Down from Black Rocks, the first side canyon on the right provides a short hike to pictographs. It is not entirely obvious, but you should pull the boat up under the railroad bridge. The hike is on the east (right side) of the canyon and has a register at the beginning. It is short, and will take about 20 minutes round trip.
From there down, the canyon opens and becomes somewhat less interesting. Pay attention when the canyon opens fully, as you are nearing the Westwater takeout.