• The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Arizona’s Salt River

  • In Tonto National Forest near Mesa, Arizona, there is a hidden oasis at The Salt River at over 200 miles in length. This amazing river starts at Saguaro Lake and showcases tall grass, iconic Arizona red rock, and pretty well-kept water great for families, individuals, and couples.

About the Salt River

In Tonto National Forest near Mesa, Arizona, there is a hidden oasis at The Salt River at over 200 miles in length. This amazing river starts at Saguaro Lake and showcases tall grass, iconic Arizona red rock, and pretty well-kept water great for families, individuals, and couples. Adventure is only 30 minutes away from Phoenix.

The wildlife is absolutely breathtaking with lots of varieties of birds, falcons, wild horses, otters, deer, lizards, etc. There is something insanely special about seeing wildlife in its natural habitat just doing its thing. You can read another blog here about what it’s like to paddleboard down the Salt River.

As the Salt River is rain and water flow dependent, the main season to go the Salt River is April - September. The rest of the year has low water flow and is not open for people.

In this guide, you will learn all there is to know about the Salt River in Arizona and six different ways you can explore the Salt River.

6 Ways to Adventure on the Salt River

  1. Tubing
  2. Paddleboard
  3. Kayak
  4. Swimming
  5. Fishing
  6. Wildlife Observation

The most popular thing to do on the Salt River is to float down it on big ole blow-up tubes with friends drinking and eating all day. Arizona in the summer is about 120 degrees (yikes) and water anywhere is the preferred way of hanging out. People sometimes play a game of throwing marshmallows for entertainment and even bring another tube to carry their cooler of goodies.

As you can see on the map above, there are different checkpoints along the river that the tubes are dropped in at and exited at. This is the company we have used and recommend: Salt River Tubing and Shuttle Service. They have an affordable way to experience the Salt River for about $17.

They are located at: 9200 North Bush Highway, Mesa, AZ 85215

If you want to carpool, park at the top as you can enter the Salt River without paying any company. I would say it might just be easier to pay the fees because of the convenience of dropping off the tubes at the end without the chaos of transporting everything myself.


Paddleboarding/Kayaking

Just as you could do your own thing with the tubes, you can do your own thing with other water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding.

You can go paddleboarding on WildJoy with our host, Curtis, to go beyond the tuber exit. This is the area where it is wide open and it’s nice to have a guide to navigate rapids and twists and turns.

You can rent paddleboards from No Snow which allows you to transport them yourself within your time range. They are ‘PHOENIX-METRO VALLEY’S ONLY SUP SPECIALTY SHOP, WE ARE EVERYTHING STAND UP PADDLE BOARD.’ They do not do tours.

No Snow Stand Up Paddle board shop is located in Mesa, Arizona 3654 N Power Rd Suite #104 Mesa, Arizona 85215 (click address for map link)  Just 5-30 minutes from the best paddling in the city! Choose to park at Phon D and have someone leave their car there. Drive up to the top and come down.


At any point in this river you can swim, float, or paddle along. It’s pretty common to see people swimming around Mudd Cliffs at the Salt River. Float amongst massive cacti, huge hills, and gorgeous blue skies.


Warning: there is a current so please please please keep little kids within reach.


Fishing

The Salt River is fed the tail-end of the water release from the Stewart Mountain Dam as it goes through Saguaro Lake. Good news for fishing lovers as this is well-stocked stream with trout! Unlike the rest of the activities, fishing is available all year long.  You can learn more about fishing at the Salt River at AZ Game & Fish Department.

Wildlife Observation

On my trips to the Salt River, I have personally seen wild horses, bald eagles, otters, and little fish. Falcons have raced across the river towards little fish with large vultures off in the distance. Wild horses leisurely cross the river in massive packs creating the most beautiful visuals.

Saguaro Lake Ranch’s site offers a wonderful detailed list of what you can find. Be sure to tag us on what you see! @wildjoyexperiences

Key Things to Remember

  1. DO NOT LITTER! If you see trash, grab it and toss it when you leave! Protect the beautiful wildlife and nature.
  2. Hydration is key! When you’re outside in the Sun, double the water you think you should be drinking.
  3. Protect your skin with clothes, socks, hats, sunglasses, and whatever else you can think. Melanoma is very real in Arizona.
  4. Drinking is cans only (no glass).
  5. Don’t drink and drive. There are police officers everywhere close to the Salt River for this reason. Be safe please!