Drift through time

There’s something to be said for taking it slow.

After all, it took eons to carve out the spectacular sandstone canyons that stand sentry along numerous stretches of Grand Valley rivers, in particular along the southern flank of the Colorado.

Your ride through millennia, though, takes just a few languid hours, floating the calm stretch of the Colorado that wends through Ruby as well as Horsethief canyons — the increasingly popular river trip whose reputation is seriously getting around.

The trip through Ruby Canyon, which involves entering McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, is “kind of like a little hidden gem,” according to Shelly Baier with Rimrock Adventures in Fruita.

“It’s right in our backyard. So many people, I think even locally, don’t know it’s there,” Baier said.

Rimrock runs guided multi-day trips down the scenic stretch, and aside from running the logistics of the trip, guides also provide a different, interpretive service — providing context to an area rich in cultural and geographic history.

“We do cater our trips to what people want. Some people want more of the history and to learn about the geology — all our guides are very knowledgeable about that,” Baier said.

The side hikes are another amazing feature of this particular section of river. Canyons stretch like long slender fingers, in a panoply of earthen shocks of color, some all the way to Glade Park high above.

Hikes through nearby Rattlesnake Canyon are paid off with views of massive, though delicate, arches, on par with the same geologic features that draw people to national parks across the state line.

“The Morrison formation runs throughout, and that’s peppered with dinosaur bones,” explained Tom Kleinschnitz, whose Adventure Bound outfitting company has been running river trips across a wide area since 1963, including through Ruby Canyon.

“There are pictographs in the canyons — lots of wonderful little secrets, to where it’s great to have guide service to explain to people where they are,” Kleinschnitz said.

Adventure Bound sets up trips through Ruby and Horsethief canyons — both guided trips and boat rentals for self-guided types — and also does lots of business around Canyonlands National Park in Utah and Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado.

“We have the guided experience, where a guide will be there and prepare the steak dinner and the Dutch oven desserts — one of those full-service things,” Kleinschnitz said of the close-to-home Ruby Canyon trip. “Or they can do it themselves, and we just turn the raft over to them. Just over the border in Utah, we pick them and their boat up and drive them back to Loma.”

The calm but spectacular ride through Ruby Canyon is particularly appealing for family-type trips, Kleinschnitz said.

“Sometimes our clients are grandparents that are bringing their grandkids out for a vacation. And the Ruby Canyon (trip) is just ideal for the guide-service portion of it — everything is taken care of, the food packed, all the port-o-potties set up — all those things that are just nice to have all done (for you).”

“On the self-guided side, you’ll have all that stuff there, including the legal boats,” Kleinschnitz said. Both Rimrock Adventures and Adventure Bound do a brisk rental business, for folks who want to take a self-guided ride down the river.

But unlike others stretches of the Colorado River in the valley, where people can legally float in all kinds of river-running contraptions, the trip through McInnis Canyons NCA is highly regulated. Boats must be multi-chambered, and it’s required to have spare oars, a repair kit, a first aid kit, a portable toilet system, and fire pans for campsites.

Speaking of campsites, the Bureau of Land Management a number of years ago made the key decision to begin assigning camps.

“That gave people the ability to have a quality experience, guaranteed. They know their campsite is waiting for them,” Kleinschnitz said.

While planning a trip via a local outfitter has obvious and definite advantages, 83 percent of the allocation in Ruby Canyon is for private use, with the remaining 17 percent for commercial outfits. The vast majority of the management plan for the BLM is to give access to private individuals to the stirring trip. Reservations are managed through the website recreation.gov.

The trip can be done during much of the year; Adventure Bound can charter a trip through the canyons from March to early November.

In fact, the wildlife scene comes to life during some of the colder months, when eagles come to fish the river when the high country ices over.

Kleinschnitz said there are some permanent nesting sites for eagles in Ruby Canyon, but the area sees lots of eagle visitors during the colder months.

“They are fun to watch fish for their lunch,” he said.

Rimrock Adventures has river access and guided trips on the Colorado River in Fruita, but also can coordinate trips on the Gunnison and Dolores rivers. Lots of information can be found at rradventures.com.

Adventure Bound USA is locally based as well, but operates over a wider area, coordinating trips within about a 250-mile radius. Specific trip information can be found at adventureboundusa.com.

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