Where is the Salt River?
Why are paddlers often interested in Salt River kayaking?
What’s the best time of year for kayaking this body of water?
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The Salt River is located in Arizona. It is a popular kayaking spot that isn’t too far away from Phoenix, making it a convenient place to test out paddling skills and abilities.
Paddlers often enjoy making Salt River one of their “must do” destinations, especially when they’re in the intermediate stage. However, paddlers of most skill levels can enjoy this body of water.
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If you plan to go kayaking on the Salt River in Arizona, it’s important to know when to plan your visit. This body of water is fed by a dam, so the kayaking is best at the times of year when the dam releases.
This means you’re likely to have better kayaking water from May through October, give or take a couple of weeks. At other times of the year, the water levels may get too low to allow passage at all, and you might have to carry your kayak through a good portion of the run.
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In this article, we’ll give you all the basics you need to know about planning a trip to the Salt River. Check out this info and use it to make the right decisions about your next kayaking adventure!
Kayaking at the Salt River
Experienced Needed: Intermediate
Note: It’s a good idea to know a little bit about how to paddle a kayak before you take this trip. However, just knowing the basics is more than enough for the Lower portion of the river, and a couple of previous trips can help prepare you for the Upper river, too. This body of water provides the perfect intermediate experience.
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Location: The Tonto National Forest, just outside of Phoenix, Arizona
Portions Available for Kayaking:
- The Upper Salt River is a little more intense, with a couple of rapids.
- The Lower Salt River is much easier and is more of a gentle float, with rapids that don’t exceed Class II at their highest.
- Both portions can be paddled in the same trip by most intermediate kayakers.
How to Get to This Location:
- Take the 202 Loop from US10.
- Take the exit at North Powell Road and continue heading north.
- After North Powell Road becomes North Bush Highway, keep going.
- Public parking and launching will be on your right.
- Keep in mind that outfitters may have different locations or may meet elsewhere and then shuttle you to the river. Always check with your outfitter to be sure you’re going to the right place.
Ideal Trip Duration: Half-Day
- Most solo paddlers and families alike enjoy exploring this body of water for a half-day trip. It doesn’t take longer than a few hours to paddle the full stretch of the river, including both the Upper and Lower portions.
- However, it is entirely possible to make a full day of this trip, too. If you plan to kayak on your own time, without a guided tour, you can easily stop along the shore in some areas, have lunch, and take your time exploring the surrounding area. Just be sure you stop in a public-use location and not on private property.
- Yes; this river is very family-friendly. Many outfitters allow children to join their tours, on tandem kayaks with an adult or in their own kid-sized kayak instead. Older members of the family can also get in on the fun when kayaking this river, thanks to its overall gentle nature.
- If you are worried about kids or older individuals in your family on the Upper portion of the river, look for a tour that includes paddling only on the Lower portion, and be sure to speak to your tour guide ahead of time about your concerns.
- Sonoran Desert – You’ll be able to see saguaro cactuses in the desert from the comfort of your kayak.
- Bald eagles – Although they can’t be spotted all year, sometimes, you can see bald eagles flying or nesting along this river.
- Wild mustangs – If you or someone in your group loves horses, keep your eyes peeled for the wild mustangs that call this area home.
- Impressive cliffs – Beautiful cliffs with plenty of history behind them can be seen from the water’s surface along the edges of the Salt River in more than one location.
Onsite Rental Availability:
- If you choose to take a guided tour, there are plenty of on-site rental and tour combinations available.
- If you choose to rent a kayak but take a self-guided tour, you’ll need to rent from off-site and bring your kayak in.
- If you choose to use your own kayak and take a self-guided tour, you can haul your kayak in to the public launch site and put in whenever you like. Just make sure you don’t get out of the water on private property, and otherwise, you can have complete control over your kayaking adventure.
- If you plan this trip during the later part of fall, you may be able to experience the fastest and highest water levels on the river, which can make the trip more enjoyable overall.
- There are many places to exit the water once you get started, even from the public launch site, so this trip is customizable to your party’s needs.
- The river is a great choice for families, beginners, and groups to experience together.
- Since it’s located near Phoenix, there are a lot of rentals, accommodations, places to eat and more nearby.
- There may be height and weight requirements (both minimum and maximum) on this tour, so it’s important to check ahead of time with the company you’re touring with to be sure everyone in your party can safely come.
- Salt River kayaking tours are closed during the winter months due to cold weather and issues with water levels.
- This offer is a popular destination, and as such, during the more popular times of year it may be extremely crowded with both tourists and locals alike.
- If you plan your trip solely based around wildlife viewing, understand that you may not always get to see what you’re looking for on every excursion.
So what makes this destination such an important one? Here are a few reasons why kayakers love the Salt River:
- The river offers plenty of beautiful scenery that helps kayakers get up close and personal with Arizona’s nature.
- With mostly Class I-II rapids and a few Class III options on the upper portion of the river, this is the perfect Intermediate body of water for paddlers to enjoy.
- The river has plenty of guided tours as well as self-guided options, too.
- Wild horses and bald eagles are just some of the incredible wildlife that can be viewed along this river.
- The Lower Salt River is a gentle float that’s perfect for families and beginners.
Whatever interests you about the Salt River, get ready to get out there and enjoy it to the fullest during your next kayaking experience!