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Hello Buzzards,
I’ve run the Ruby Horsethief section of the Colorado river probably over 20 times in the last 30 years. I’ve done it in low water in canoes and high water in rafts. But I’ve never done it in mid-winter and I’ve never done it in a day. I’m wondering if impassible ice dams form up in there this time of year. I realize it varies from year to year. And this has been a cold winter so far. I emailed RimRock adventures with that question and am awaiting a reply. Apparently they do run shuttles this time of year. Right now the river is running about 3500cfs which will be a bit slow. But I’m flexible on dates. I just want to do in the next month or two if possible. We’d have two people in my canoe very lightly loaded with provisions and emergency bivy gear. And one guy on a fast paddleboard. Anyone paddled from Loma to Westwater in a canoe in a day? I’d love to know how long it took you at what cfs.
Thanks in advance,
R
 

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24 and change miles to WW boat ramp, you only have two challenges (if no ice): short days and the paddleboard...
 

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Yes, ice dams most certainly form on R-HT this time of year.

Once some friends ran it in January and when they rounded a bend and were stopped by an ice dam, they wound up having to cache all their gear and portage with the smallest raft they had to float out. They came back in mid-Feb and got their boats and stuff. The photos of them trudging through the snow dragging the frames to their cache spot and portaging looked kind of like Napoleon's retreat from Moscow...

There are usually discussions this time of year about this, try a search and you'll find out more.

One guideline I've heard is that if there's ice in Debeque Canyon, there's ice in R-HT and Westwater. Remember that at this time of year some of the places in the canyon won't get any sunlight until spring. Another place to check would be Redtail Aviation in Moab (I think).

Be safe,

-AH
 
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Yes, ice dams most certainly form on R-HT this time of year.

One guideline I've heard is that if there's ice in Debeque Canyon, there's ice in R-HT and Westwater. Remember that at this time of year some of the places in the canyon won't get any sunlight until spring. Another place to check would be Redtail Aviation in Moab (I think).

Be safe,

-AH

This is a good guideline, at these low flows, I'm betting there will be some ice, whether it's dammed up or not, well only one way to find out. The old RHT ranger Wayne used to do a patrol trip in his canoe in a day no problem, high or low water.



FWIW, a LOT of private flights out of Walker Field in GJ, someone there at the airport might have first hand intel on what the river looks like.
 

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There's ice floating down the river right now 1/2 mile from my house. Some build up in the eddies and along the shore. You'll be paddling hard to get through R-HT in the daylight. Come boat on the Gunnison or through the Grand Valley.
 

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Canoe

I have most certainly canoed it in a single day, very low water. I think it took around 6 hours, paddling continuously. I would not risk it right now. I was in GJ yesterday and there were certainly ice chunks floating down. Unsure of a dam but the risk is pretty severe. I'd wait. The valley warms up pretty quickly. End of February/beginning of March, I'd almost guarantee that you'd be able to get down no problem.
 

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Ice damns typically present themselves with growing ice on the banks. If you do go, pay attention to that. If ice starts growing on the bank, get out and take a walk to see whats happening. When they don't present themselves that way the water is typically so slow that you have plenty of time to see it coming. It wouldn't be that bad to portage a mostly empty canoe with two dudes on the bank ice, assuming you caught it before it was 3' tall. Give er hell!!
 

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I can share a harrowing tale of a cast and blast trip years ago in Idaho that started from a boat ramp that had cake ice floating past it (and slow/dead eddies where iced over). We were very familiar with the stretch. No deep canyons (ie full sun). The very first slow water/almost no current section on a bend in the river had an ice jam that plugged up the entire bend for several hundred yards. We knew then that we were in for a very long day. We portaged and drug the boat at nearly every slow bend there after until some spring water helped warm the river a bit.

If you see cake ice floating in the river (as others have mentioned), you might find slow bends were a lot of that ice has bound up together.
 

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Drove down to GJ today, tough to see the river in the commuter car but heres what I saw.



There were several ice dams in DeBeque canyon and I saw at least two spots where the river had frozen over completely. It looked like it would be trying to row your boat in a slushee even if there were no ice dams
 

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3 to 4 years ago.

Is that still there? I would have thought they would have removed it by now.
Up to about 3 to 4 years ago it was, a friend with a Piper J3 Cub flew me up that canyon and we spotted it. Never knew the story behind it or how it ended up there.
 

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Up to about 3 to 4 years ago it was, a friend with a Piper J3 Cub flew me up that canyon and we spotted it. Never knew the story behind it or how it ended up there.

In a nutshell, plane crashed, RHT boaters saw it, rescued the pilot and took him to safety. I would have thought that the Colorado BLM would have made them recover the wreckage, however given the location (no, I've not seen it myself, just heard the stories) it might be a very expensive proposition involving heavy lift helicopters, not to mention the deference to the nesting Bald Eagles in the area...
 

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Thanks MNichols, for that information, I remember reading about that aircraft incident, lucky those rafters were there to assist that pilot, nice work on their part. Back to river business, though.
 

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Did a mtb ride today on Rustlers overlooking the entrance to Horsethief Canyon. And I stopped at the Loma boat ramp and took a video—see attached. Eddy was frozen over and a good but of ice flowing. Look carefully in the sky toward the end of the video—see it?
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thank you for all the info. It's looking like mid Feb might be the time to start really looking at the river conditions. Hopefully sun will be hitting all parts of the river by then. I'm wondering when the water will start to really come up. I don't want it to be over about 5000cfs for canoeing. Right now it seems like it's going down. I imagine mid February will still be pretty low.
 

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I floated it in early April last year (big snow year) and I think it was only at 8,000 or so. It stays low pretty late.
 
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