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BLM>Colorado>McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area>Recreation>Boating>Ruby-Horsethief FAQs
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Ruby-Horsethief Permit System FAQs

Why are permits required for overnight camping in Ruby-Horsethief?

This permit system was implemented to manage visitor use and protect resources. Use of the Colorado River between Loma and Westwater, called the Ruby-Horsethief stretch, has increased dramatically over the past decade. This permit system ensures that boaters know where they will be camping before they launch, which will reduce the number of conflicts over campsites. It also ensures that camping will occur only in designated sites to reduce impacts to sensitive areas and hold campers accountable.

Who needs a permit for Ruby-Horsethief?

Everyone camping overnight on Ruby-Horsethief is required to have a permit. Camping is only allowed in the 34 designated camping sites. No permit is required for day use.

Is there a fee for the permits?

Fees are required for camping between May 1 and September 30.

Fees are by group size, per night.

There is a $6 non-refundable reservation fee charged for all permits, year round. 

Children who are 16 years old and under are not included in the head count for group size fees. There is still a maximum of 25 heartbeats per group.

Dogs ARE included in the head count for the fee and for group size, with a limit of two dogs per campsite.

  Group Size

Cost per Night







How do I get a permit?

Camping permits are reserved through Permits are accepted starting 60 days in advance, year round.


I issued my camping permit to myself at Loma for weekdays in 2012…Why the change? 

When the river plan was approved, it included an adaptive management approach by which BLM could consider moving to office-issued permits seven days per week if more than one unpermitted group was found camping in RHRA per month.  This option of self-issuing permits at the launch for weeknight camps was developed to maintain flexibility based on the tradition of being able to show up at the launch and go. 


Based on patrols and staff monitoring, this was the single-most difficult piece of the permit system to implement successfully.  Visitors frequently and routinely misinterpreted the self-issued permit as an option, and staff received frequent questions during patrols regarding why all permits weren’t just issued from the office.  River patrol staff began talking with visitors about this during patrols, and received feedback supporting the change. For those reasons, during the 2013 season, all permits between May 1 and September 30 were issued from the Grand Junction Field Office.


The BLM also held a meeting to talk about this and other potential changes for 2013 with private boaters on January 15 in Grand Junction.


In 2013, the BLM will pilot other approaches to provide for the flexibility that visitors enjoy, including the option of actually issuing permits via email to allow for same-day permit receipts.


Do to the high number of requests for online permits, beginning March 1, 2017 the BLM will start issuing permits year round from 


Can I get my permit on-line or through e-mail?

Permits are now available through!

How do I get more information about the permits and available camping areas?

Please visit to view an online calendar of available campsites.  Boating information can also be found on our website.  If you still have questions about the Ruby-Horsethief section, you can also call our office 970-244-3000.

Where can I camp?

BLM has 34 designated camp sites along the Ruby-Horsethief stretch. Camping is only allowed in these designated sites.

Can I bring my dog?

Dogs will be limited to two per camp site and count towards the overall group size for the fee system.

How are camping permits allocated among private boaters and commercial rafting outfitters?

Of the 33 designated camps, 30 will be available for private boaters, and 6 will be available for the outfitted public. The campsites available to outfitters will rotate; outfitters will not always have access to the same camps. Commercial camps will be allocated ahead of the permit season, and there will be penalties for reserving camps but not using them.

Why does the BLM allow commercial rafting outfitters to use this stretch of river?

Commercial outfitters provide the opportunity for visitors who may lack experience and equipment to get onto the river and enjoy their public lands. The BLM is interested in maintaining a cadre of committed and responsive outfitters who provide visitors with a variety of opportunities, from canoe rentals to fully supported raft trips that provide opportunities to hike the canyons from the river. Many of these outfitters also offer an educational component to their trips, which can foster environmental stewardship and enhance awareness and conservation of the sensitive resources that exist on public lands. In return for the privilege of operating on the public lands, commercial outfitters return 3 percent of their gross receipts to BLM. These fees are put back into management of the area.

Why didn’t BLM limit the number of people that could use the area at any one time?

The number of designated campsites is limited, as is group size. The permit system will give BLM a more accurate picture of the amount of use that is occurring, which would be needed to set a true capacity limit. Over the next three years, permit data will be used to consider capacity, to allow the BLM to establish an upper ceiling for camping use on any given night (which some commenters suggested). Permit data will also allow the BLM to consider the commercial-private split and the mix of campsites that would be necessary to provide for use as desired by the public.

Why isn’t day use or motorized use being limited as part of this project?

The permit system was designed to reduce impacts—to the social setting (conflict among visitors over camp sites) and to the physical/natural setting (damage to cultural resources and sensitive riparian areas). At this point, our data suggest that the primary impacts are associated with camping, not with day use.

What if I want to combine a Ruby-Horsethief and Westwater trip?

The Ruby-Horsethief weekend camping permits become available at the same time as Westwater permits. This was done to allow people to plan a combined trip. To combine these two stretches of the Colorado River, you must obtain separate permits for Ruby-Horsethief through the Grand Junction Field Office and for Westwater through the Moab Field Office. Westwater is a busier strech.

What if I miss my assigned campsite?

If you miss your assigned campsite, you may not select another campsite. Please proceed downstream to the Westwater takeout. 

What additional specific rules are in place for Ruby Horsethief?

For more rules and regulations, please browse through the links in the brown box at the top of the previous page. There is a link for rules and regulations, as well as required materials for all trips down Ruby-Horsethief. If you have further questions that cannot be answered on the website, feel free to email You can also call the front desk at 970-244-3000