Colorado River Camping Etiquette

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Colorado River Camping Etiquette

Postby Dan Bereck » Sun May 12, 2024 11:45 am

This is an informational report for established campsites located on various rivers in Colorado, especially the Colorado River, which are primarily used by rafters/kayakers. Established campgrounds on Colorado rivers (accessed by vehicles) and non-established backcountry camps (accessed on foot) may not follow these rules. These river campsites are usually used by rafters/kayakers and most mountaineers do not know the river camping etiquette. The Colorado River and other rivers have many campsites for rafters/kayakers. Those campsites are normally by permit only with a typical fee (depending on group size) being over $50 per night. Reservations (often year-round) must be made and usually they need to be made months in advance. There are very strict rules for river camping at these campsites including the required use of a groover (toilet for solid human and dog waste) and fire pans, with burned coals and groover being removed in the boats. Camping is restricted to the river campsites only. River rafts can carry a lot of gear while backpacks are very limited. River runners are used to such rules but mountaineers are not. In May 2024, I was kayaking the Colorado River (25-mile Ruby Horsethief run) with 5 friends when 2 hikers, descending Knowles Canyon, showed up at our campsite, expecting to camp at the river campsites. Some hiking websites even encourage hikers to use the river campsites without covering the rules and permit process. We told the hikers the rules and they appeared to be shocked. Please understand the rules to avoid unpleasant incidents. The Colorado River water is also very silty and rafters/kayakers are required to carry all their fresh water in their boats. Please understand that river etiquette has all rafters/kayakers relieving themselves (not human solid waste) in the river. There are 34 river campsites in the 25-mile Ruby-Horsethief run with almost every camp being occupied every night from the spring to the fall. That is a lot of piss going into the river. Other Colorado rivers with river campsites are under the same rules. Please carry lots of water so you need not use the river water near these river campsites. Do not use the river campsites, unless you have a permit, since boaters who have paid plenty for a permit, they obtained months in advance, will not be happy to find you there. Please plan your trips accordingly.
Dan Bereck
 
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