More permits weighed for Ruby-Horsethief

The Bureau of Land Management wants to float some ideas past boaters who run Ruby-Horsethief Canyon.

A meeting from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction is slated to collect comments about the BLM’s tentative plan to further implement a permitting process there.

For years, the BLM has been working on ways to accommodate a growing number of boaters seeking out the 35 campsites along the mostly languid 25-mile stretch of the Colorado River that flows from Loma to the Westwater pull out in Utah.

Last year, the BLM implemented a process that required boaters to secure permits in advance for busy weekends, yet it allowed boaters to reserve camping at the boat launch during the less popular weekday trips.

The weekend permits were free, but that will change next season.

What BLM officials want to know is whether the agency should also require weekday users to secure permits in advance, before arriving at the boat launch.

BLM officials initially have found that having two separate ways to obtain permits is confusing to some boaters.

“We made the mid-week permits available on site, thinking it would be more convenient for campers, but our initial impression is that it makes more sense to issue them consistently with the weekend permits,” Katie Stevens, manager of the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, said in a statement. “Before we make any adjustments, we need to hear from boaters using this area.”

BLM officials also are considering extending the hours in which boaters can pick up permits and allowing users to obtain permits online.

Permits for camping for the next season between May 1 and Sept. 30 will be $20 for a group of up to five; $50 for a groups of six to 14; and $100 for groups of between 15 to 25 people.

Issuing permits for campsites became necessary because of overcrowding along the sometimes narrow river corridor. Obtaining camping permits on a first-come, first-served basis at the boat launch became more competitive, with the most popular Black Rocks camping sites going quickly, or often not being utilized correctly. For example small groups might secure a site designed for large groups or vice-versa.

Also, without a clear camping policy, some boaters would float past camping sites they had reserved, taking spaces downstream. That caused conflicts when users who had legitimately reserved camp sites downstream were forced to share space with campers who had floated past the sites they had signed up for.

Comparisons by year of river use in that section is difficult because the BLM just started the process last year, said David Boyd, a BLM spokesman.

In 2012, the agency distributed 914 permits for a total of 7,415 visitors, not including commercial day trips.

Anecdotally, rangers are seeing more boaters, Boyd said.

“Every season seems to get a little busier out there,” he said.

“The rangers felt 2012 was busier than past years, and busier than they expected, keeping with the trend of increasing use each year (except 2011 was a little slower because of the exceptionally high water),” Boyd said.


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