Those interested in camping on Ruby-Horsethief section of Colorado River must reserve spot
Every year, thousands of river enthusiasts flock to a special 28-mile stretch of the Colorado River west of Grand Junction.
Picturesque canyon walls, desert scenes, the chance to spot wild turkeys, bighorn sheep and other wildlife, and a leisurely float trip await these river fanatics.
But the 28-mile float trip from the Loma boat ramp to Whitewater, Utah, that slices through the Ruby-Horsethief section is no long a first-come, first-served area.
This is the fifth year reservations are required for the 34 campsites for the trip. Float time for the trip can run from eight to 15 hours, depending on water levels and winds.
Bureau of Land Management reservations for riverfront camping along the section, which is in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, will be available online beginning March 1.
The BLM hopes the online system will provide greater flexibility to users looking to make a reservation.
The BLM began requiring permits for camping in the Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado River in 2012 to organize and improve camping opportunities. Fees were implemented in 2013, with revenues going toward improving user experience on that section of the river.
“I think this new system will be much more user friendly,” River Ranger Shaun Ray said.
He said he believes the 24/7 access to reservations and to make changes to permits will benefit everyone.
“We are always looking to improve user experience and increase access and opportunities,” he said.
Ben Stiers, who moved to Delta County last year, said he plans to be online as soon as he finalizes his float plans.
“I floated that section last year with some buddies, and it was one of the best trips ever,” he said. “This year, it’s my turn, and we’re planning for an even better time.”
In a previous article in The Daily Sentinel, Ray said it’s obvious why the Ruby-Horsethief section is so popular.
“It’s a gorgeous stretch of river. It really is. It’s not the most technical stretch, but it’s gorgeous. We have something pretty special here,” he said.
The number of people camping on the river has steadily increased each year since the permit system was instituted.
In 2014, there were more than 12,700 permits issued for the section. The permit numbers jumped to more than 14,000 river runners that camped along the Ruby-Horsethief section in 2015.
According to a news release, those visits generated approximately $90,000 in revenue that the BLM is using for boat launch and campsite improvements, permit administration and river-ranger patrols.
In that previous article, BLM spokesman Chris Joyner said the permit system has been a great success.
“It used to be a race down the river and the hope they could find an open campsite,” he said. “Since the implementation of the permit and reservation system, complaints have gone down significantly.”
The busiest month for the section is August, and that’s why Stiers plans to jump online as soon as he can.
“We want to make the trip in mid-August, so I know I better get something reserved fast, so we don’t miss out,” he said.
The local BLM office manages the 19-mile section from the Loma boat ramp to the Utah state line. At that point, a BLM Utah office takes over.
The section lost one of its most coveted campsites last year because of a 50-acre fire. The Dog Island campsite was closed down after the fire, which killed 168 cottonwood trees.
The blaze was started by an individual setting off fireworks. A Breckenridge man was cited for illegally setting off fireworks and starting the fire. He was later convicted.