I was invited to join in on a Colorado River float which was from August 4th through the 7th.
Monday afternoon we travelled from Colorado Springs to the Island Acres section of the James M. Robb state park, east of Grand Junction. It’s a nice, clean state park and campground, and not too far off of I-70 (use Exit 47), with enough sites to be able to just drive up and grab one without reservations (at least during the week). This trip included two former co-workers, John and Marty, and their sons (two each). The seven of us would take three canoes and one kayak for the 3-day, 2-night float. I brought my Chesapeake Light Craft Mill Creek 13 with the wood strip deck, and an Old Town Penobscot 17, while Marty brought his red Old Town Penobscot 16 and John his Mad River Explorer.
On Tuesday morning we packed up our tents and drove to Fruita for breakfast, getting off at Exit 19 and heading south, which is also Colorado State Highway 340, East . . . this also goes to the entrance of the Colorado National Monument. One put-in for the Ruby-Horsethief Canyon section of the Colorado River is right down the road at the bridge which crosses the Colorado River. To get there, head south from I-70 and just before crossing the first bridge, turn onto the gravel road on the left. There is a parking lot and dirt boat launch. We unloaded everything here, then shuttled the vehicles to the Westwater, Utah (Exit 227, follow the sign which says to Westwater Area) takeout. Upon returning to the put-in, we quickly loaded all of the boats and launched.
We are able to add a few more miles of floating by putting in at Fruita instead of the more popular boat launch at Loma.
We stopped at the Loma boat launch to check in, but there was no log and no ranger. We continued downstream and eventually stopped for lunch on a sandy beach, setting our chairs in the river while eating and staying cool.
Our camp for the first night was at Cottonwood 3. This used to be Cottonwood 2, but the BLM renumbered the sites since a few years ago. This is a large area with a rocky shore.
We waited for a while before cooking dinner, as it was pretty hot, and sat in the shade of a cottonwood tree.
Dinner is a happy time . . . .
I set my tent close to the river.
On Wednesday, we spotted two Bald Eagles. One stayed in the river picking at something it must have killed as it didn’t fly even as we passed by.
We stopped at Mee Corner for lunch. If nobody is there, this is a really nice place to land and walk around. We camped here a few years ago, and when leaving, saw a herd of Desert Bighorn sheep up on the ridges between Mee Corner and the Mee 1 camp.
The wind picked up shortly after leaving Mee Corner and at times was very powerful. Failing to keep the bow pointed downstream resulted in a lot of work to get it straight again. We hit a nice wind-driven wave-train about a mile or so upstream from the Blackrocks section and took a short video. I expected a little more adventure when entering the Blackrocks area but it was a little less treacherous than previous runs. If you want to see some of the scenery in video form, check out this Blackrocks video I took. We stayed at the camp, Blackrocks 7. The landing wasn’t bad, but you did need to be careful for underwater rocks and also note that the shore falls off quickly.
We did all of our cooking at the spacious landing, but camped up higher and away from the river. The rocks retain a lot of heat and while this makes it a bit warm in the early evening, it kept it very comfortable all the way through midnight as we stayed up late looking at the Milky Way and watching for shooting stars.
I brought along two different stoves for this trip leaving my trusty Coleman 400A backpacking stove at home. This time it was a 1963 Coleman 502, “Sunshine of the Night” single burner stove for cooking, and for my coffee percolator, I brought a 1943 World War II Coleman 520 stove which I restored to working order last fall. The 520 stove was a bit fickle and tried my patience both mornings, but I was able to use it successfully.
After breaking camp, we floated down river for a mile or so to McDonald Canyon. We landed at the mouth of McDonald creek directly below a railroad girder bridge, river right. Hike up the trail on the down-river side of the bridge, then cross the bridge, avoiding any trains of course, and then head into the canyon on the trail. This is a good place to go exploring and hiking.
There is some minor cave art at the massive natural amphitheater a short ways, on the well-worn trail, from the river.
Near the end of the journey, both of John’s boys took a turn paddling the kayak, meanwhile I finished in the Mad River canoe.
Our route from Fruita to Salt Creek.
. . . and, from Salt Creek to Westwater
We arrived at the takeout at about the same time as another large group, but everyone was patient and cooperative. We shared a few gallons of leftover water with the other thirsty river rats as they planned to continue the next day on the downstream whitewater section. Over all it was a very nice trip for this very popular float.
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