When it gets hot in Arizona, then it’s time to float down the Lower Salt River, located in the Tonto National Forest.
When it starts to get hot in Arizona, it’s time to hit the water. A great way to do that is by tubing down the Lower Salt River. In addition to cooling off in the river, most people end up seeing either wild horses or other smaller animals on their trip down.
Why So Salty
If you take a look around the world, you will see very few salt rivers. Wondering why this one is?
Blame it on the invasive Tamarisk Salt Cedar plant. Since the plant thrives in desert like climates, they thought it would be the perfect solution for the erosion and evaporation problems.
Obviously, it worked in stopping erosion, it replaced areas where native plants died, and helped to limit water evaporation.
Furthermore, the Salt Cedar is able to absorb salt from its surroundings. The salt then travels to the plants leaves, where over time, will drop into the water, thus making it more salty.
What To Bring
Water: For every person, you should have at least 1 gallon of water. Honestly, you should take even more.
Sunscreen: Bring lots of sunscreen. Tubing down the river can take a few hours. During this time you will most likely dip in the river or get wet, so that sunscreen won’t help you anymore. Trust us, we have see and unfortunately experienced the dreadful sunburn.
Swimsuit: You should have a swimsuit for when you want to get into the water. Another great thing to bring is a long sleeve rash guard, which will help protect your arms while you are floating down the river.
Sunglasses: The sun can be brutal on your eye. If you love your shades, then make sure to have a sunglass strap, which will prevent you from losing them in the river.
Lost something at the Salt River, then try contacting Man + River on one of his social networks. He has found lost things in the Salt River before.
Hat: The desert heat can easily reach over 100º F or almost 38º C for everyone else on the world.
Water Shoes: It is wise to have some water shoes that have a grip on the bottom. Some areas are more fast paced, over rocks, which can be easy to slip on with bare feet or flip flops.
Old BedSheets: Okay, you might think this one is weird, but it will save you from a hot tube. The tubes most people rent are black, which will get hot when you’re floating down. So with a bedsheet just put it over the tube and tie the ends together.
Rope: There are signs that says to not tie your tubes together. As you float down, you will see most people don’t follow this advice. We have been many times and having the tubes tied together for us has been more helpful, then harmful. Always use caution when on the river.
Drink Cooler: It’s best to keep some of your drinks cold. You will appreciate it when it’s been 2 hours and you’re hot.
Snacks: Bring a waterproof bag to store your food in. You will get hungry and people throwing marshmallows at you won’t cut it when you’re hungry. (For some reason it has become a thing for people to bring marshmallows on the river with them.)
Water Toys/Tube: If you don’t want to pay for a tube rental, then make sure to bring your own. Some people bring their own small rafts for their coolers to float with them. You will save money if you do this, but need two cars.
Drinks: If you want other drinks besides water, then make sure they are in an aluminum can or plastic bottle. Glass is prohibited.
Trash Bag: Please bring a trash bag or use the ones that Salt River Tubing gives you. Any trash should be bagged up and taken out, so that the river stays clean. Other people want to enjoy a clean river, but do it especially for the wild horses and other animals that call this their home.
There are two ways to go about this. The first is to park in the designated lot for Salt River Tubing. Once you rent your tube, you can board a bus that will take you to the first drop off. Another bus will pick you up at the last exit point. This is a great option, since it means you don’t have to take two vehicles.
The second option, is to bring two vehicles. At point 4, you will need to drop off one car and then proceed to point 1, to float down the river. You won’t have reception in this area, so it’s wise to plan your parking ahead of time.
Renting a Tube
If you don’t plan on bringing your own tube then you will need to rent one at Salt River Tubing. The fee will also include transportation to the drop off point as well as pick up from exit point four.
GPS Location: 9200 North Bush Hwy Mesa, AZ 85215
Season Open: May – September
Hours of Operation: 7 days 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Busy on weekends and holidays
Must be at least 8 years old and be at least 4 feet tall. No exceptions are made.
Will need a driver’s license or passport for tube rentals (can rent 5 per ID).
Cost: $17 per tube
Lost or stolen tubes will cost $30 , no exceptions made.
No discounts given, but you can find local (Phoenix) coupons at certain places. Check on Salt River Tubing website for the specific places to grab a coupon.
On The River
At point 1 or 2, you will be dropped by the bus. You can choose how long you want to float for. Floating down can take anywhere from 1 to 5 hours. The first drop off point is located by a parking lot and has an easily accessible shallow area for you to get into the river.
Next, it’s time to relax and let the water take you down. Water flow will determine what points are open or closed. Like with any activity, you need to be careful of the rocks and any branches that are sticking out of the banks. Just use your hands and feet to help move away from any hazardous objects.
As you float down, look out for some of the animals that call the Salt River their home. A few that you might see are Herons, Bald Eagles, Osprey,Javelina, Woodhouse’s Toad, and Wild Horses to name a few.
Trying to fit and take a whole keg down the river in one of the tubes is NOT a good idea. Yeah you can mitigate the areas with rocks. It’s the sun that will ruin your keg and make it warm. Trust us, a group of us did this years ago and sadly, half was wasted. Always have a designated driver.
Getting Out At Exit 4
Once you reach point 4, you will need to exit. Do not wait till the last moment to start to get over to the left side. The current on the rocks is fast and can be difficult, even for a grown adult to walk through it.
Next, you will have to walk up the rock/concrete path to the shuttle bus waiting area. During busy days, police will be present to help assist or arrest. The bus will take you back to where you rented the tubes. From here, just return the tubes for your ID in exchange.
Don’t forget about Fossil Creek, near Camp Verde. One of Arizona’s best swimming holes with crystal clear cold water, which is located in a riparian zone. Want to know more?
Paddle Board : The lower Salt River is a perfect place to paddle board or kayak in. Best times are early morning or later evening. Some people go in at Camp Charlie (point 4), or there’s a few other points of entry along the river. You will need to buy a Tonto Pass beforehand for $8.
White Water Raft: Have the time to raft the river, then check out Salt River Rafting. They can take you on trips that range from 1 to 5 days.
Hike: Starting at the Phon D. Stutton Recreation Site, you can hike the 2 1/2 mile roundtrip trail that will take you by the river. In addition, you will have the chance to see wild horses or other animals. A Tonto Pass is required.
Have you tubed down the Salt River? Did you enjoy yourself and would you recommend it to others? Have any other activities or places we should see, let us know in the comments section. Thanks for taking a look at our site and don’t forget to subscribe for future articles and tips.
The information on this website has come from research and by experiencing it ourselves. Opening hours, closures, prices, etc. are always subject to change. We try to keep up to date on any new information, or tips to help make your adventure more enjoyable.
My name is Shannon (37) and I grew up in the Los Angeles area, moved to Las Vegas for a few years and finally made my way to Phoenix, Arizona. This was the city, Camilla, lived in and thus, where we ended up living in. Since a child, I have had the pleasure to travel to 44 of the 50 States in the U.S. for summer vacations due to awesome parents who loved to travel.
From these trips, I grew a love of adventure and exploration. This increased to flying to different parts of the world when I met my girlfriend and future wife, Camilla.
With a B.S. in Biology (emphasis on environmental conservation), my wife and I try to travel with ecotourism and the protection of the countries environment being factor when choosing places. In the past I have worked with rescuing marine animals, like Horn Sharks to a juvenile Black Sea Bass from Power Plants to be rehabilitated and released. Another was hiking the hills of Griffith Park in Los Angeles, looking for the Western Grey Squirrel.
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