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Colorado River: Loma to Westwater
Horsethief and Ruby Canyons

After a tumultuous descent from its mountaineous upper reaches, the Colorado River makes a relatively tranquil entry into Canyonlands country. The 25-mile stretch of river between Loma, Colorado and Westwater, Utah is a popular destination for river runners. Horsethief and Ruby Canyons offer for magnificent scenery, interesting history and great side canyon hikes. The land along the south side of the river is mostly Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness managed by the BLM. No permit is required for this trip but campers must use portable toilets and fire pans.

The day before.
Gas Station. Fruita, Colorado.

What is it? A sea kayak? No way, kayaks aren't that long and thin! You like living on the edge, man. Just DON'T die!

Entering Horsethief Canyon

March 10, 2001

I started my paddling at the Loma boat ramp at 8:00. Loma is on mile 152 counting from the confluence with Green River. This time my wife Connie provided land support, so I could leisurely paddle downstream. The river flow was about 2600 cfs somewhat below the long-term median flow (3000 cfs). There was one raft and a few canoes preparing for departure at Loma. Later, I met another single raft and a big rafting party camping at Black Rocks. During summer weekends the river is much more crowded here.

Entering Horsethief Canyon. Sunny, a gentle breeze. There were numerous small rapids along my trip and two more serious at 141.5 mile and at Black Rocks.

Ruby Canyon

Mile 141.5. Noon. Amtrak. During my 7-hour trip, 3 trains passed.

The river was very shallow here and almost the entire flow was going through a narrow chanel with high and steep standing waves (just below the train). It was the only place where I had some problems with my flatwater kayak and was close to capsizing. I suppose that there is nothing interesting here when water is higher.

Ruby Canyon Denver and Rio Grande in Ruby Canyon early 1890s by William Henry Jackson
Trains have traversed Ruby Canyon from the late 1800s. Engineer Frank C. Kendrick led the Denver, Colorado, Canyon and Pacific Railroad survey expedition from Grand Junction to the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers in the spring of 1889. The challenging trek included a tough 12-mile portage around Westwater Canyon, and a 120-mile haul of boats up the Green River to Blake (now the town of Green River).

Mee Canyon

Mile 138. The mouth of Mee Canyon. Still sunny but dark clouds on the way. Lunch break. There are spectacular spires of Wingate Sandstone in Mee Canyon's upper reaches. Unfortunately I din't have time for hiking.

First black rock formations in the river.

Black Rocks

Mile 135.5. Black Rocks, looking upstream after passing a rapid.

I avoided the main rapid by running a more narrow right arm with less water which didn't require many manoeuvres in my long kayak.

The river narrows considerably as it passes through a rocky stretch below the rapid. The unusual black rocks are Precambrian schist, the oldest exposed rock in Utah. The formation dissapears shortly after Black Rocks Rapid but reappears miles below in Westwater Canyon.

The best (and busiest) campsites with sandy beaches are just below Black Rocks.

Ruby Canyon

Ruby Canyon below Black Rocks welcomed me with a strong headwind, followed by a storm with rain showers.

I was trying to figure out how difficult it would be to reach Black Rocks by paddling upstream from Westwater. These afternoon winds typical for Ruby Canyon may be helpful ...

Westwater Because of the rain I didn't stop at McDonalds Canyon with its 1000-year-old Fremont culture wall paintings.

A couple of miles above Westwater. Canyon walls going away from the river. Farmland.

Sunny again. I finished at Westwater (mile 127.5) about 15:00.

Colorado National Monument

The day after

Colorado National Monument overlooking city of Grand Junction. Very unusual scenery: snow and fog. Silence.

Next stop at Hanging Lake Rest Area in Glenwood Canyon just above Shoshone Power Plant on the Colorado River. Strong wind and snow, some ice along shores. The weather was really too bad for kayaking.

gift ideas for paddlers, racers, and photographers ...

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