Ruby and Horsethief Canyons |

Colorado River

Floating Ruby and Horsethief Canyons - Colorado River Floating Ruby and Horsethief Canyons
Colorado River

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments


CFS RANGE: 1,000 - 30,000
CURRENT CFS: Getting current CFS.... Full Details
LENGTH: 1-3 days
MAPS: Mack, CO; Ruby Canyon, CO; Bitter Creek Well, UT; Westwater, UT


98 | 66


98 | 64


98 | 65


97 | 66


95 | 66

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Spring through fall.
GEAR: Standard paddling gear, bug spray in the summer.
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.


98 | 66


98 | 64


98 | 65


97 | 66


95 | 66

View Full Weather Details

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.

Note: It is important to sign up for a campsite at the put-in, and stick with that site. This reduces confusion and conflicts later in the day. All campsites are good, but the Black Rocks area are typically the first to be filled. Black Rocks 4 is right BEFORE the rapid, with 5 being right after it.

Getting There

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.


Rock Art and Historic Site Etiquette
Rock art and historic sites are fragile, non-renewable cultural resources that, once damaged, can never be replaced. To ensure they are protected, please:
  • Avoid Touching the Petroglyphs: Look and observe, BUT DO NOT TOUCH!
  • Stay on the Trails: Stay on the most used trails when visiting sites, and don't create new trails or trample vegetation.
  • Photography and Sketching is Allowed: Do not introduce any foreign substance to enhance the carved and pecked images for photographic or drawing purposes. Altering, defacing, or damaging the petroglyphs is against the law -- even if the damage is unintentional.
  • Pets: Keep pets on a leash and clean up after them.
  • Artifacts: If you happen to come across sherds (broken pottery) or lithics (flakes of stone tools), leave them where you see them. Once they are moved or removed, a piece of the past is forever lost.

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.


Printable Maps:

12S 689430mE 4338424mN

N39° 10' 28" W108° 48' 26"

Rattlesnake Canyon

12S 684666mE 4337254mN

N39° 09' 54" W108° 51' 45"

Old Cabin

12S 678600mE 4340884mN

N39° 11' 56" W108° 55' 54"

Mee Canyon

12S 676824mE 4336339mN

N39° 09' 30" W108° 57' 13"

Black Rocks Start

12S 673242mE 4335884mN

N39° 09' 18" W108° 59' 42"


12S 673006mE 4335072mN

N39° 08' 52" W108° 59' 53"

Black Rocks End

12S 672453mE 4334341mN

N39° 08' 28" W109° 00' 16"

Pictograph Side Canyon

12S 670933mE 4334042mN

N39° 08' 20" W109° 01' 20"


12S 670787mE 4334296mN

N39° 08' 28" W109° 01' 26"

Knowles Canyon

12S 670993mE 4333315mN

N39° 07' 56" W109° 01' 18"


12S 664242mE 4328163mN

N39° 05' 14" W109° 06' 04"


Want to make a comment? Login and let yourself be heard.