From Desert Voyagers
The Lower Salt River starts at Stewart Mountain Dam and runs to Tempe Town Lake though there usually isn't any running water below Granite Reef Dam. The navigable section between the dams is 14 miles of year round kayaking and rafting through much of the scenery the Sonoran Desert has to offer. The current is gentle class 1 flat water with one class 2 optional rapid. Perfect for beginners and very convenient to the Phoenix Metro area, few places can boast such paddling.
As you paddle the Lower Salt, flora you may see include saguaro and many cactus typical of the Sonoran Desert as well as riparian area trees and reeds. A very large horse herd wanders at will, and the lucky or sharp eyed pick out the desert bighorn heard as well as bald eagles, ospreys, herons and egrets depending on the season. For the fishermen, the Lower Salt River is the only cold-water trout fishery in the nation located in a desert. In addition to the rainbow trout that are stocked year round, expect to catch bass (largemouth, smallmouth and yellow), tilapia, carp, crappie, catfish and walleye.
Whether you are looking for some fishing, site seeing, photographic opportunities, or just some great paddling, the Lower Salt River offers great options 30 minutes from Phoenix!
|Primary Gauge||SALT RIVER BLW STEWART MOUNTAIN DAM, AZ.|
|Type||Name||Description||Camping?||Water?||Boat Ramp?||Vehicle Access|
|Put-In||Saguaro Lake Ranch||
Saguaro Lake Ranch is a private resort offering rental cabins, kayaking and horse-back riding along the Lower Salt River and Saguaro Lake Reseviour just up river. They also permit parking and launching on the river from their property at various times thoughout the year for a small fee. This put-in is in one of the narrowest parts of the river and as such, the first mile offers the most remote feel, despite being only 15 minutes outside the 4th largest city in the country.
|Put-In||Water User's (Bus Stop #1)||
Water Users, also known as Bus Stop #1 to the Salt River Recreation tubing company is a very large parking area controlled by the Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District. Sometimes closed by locked gates in the winter, throughout the warmer months it is open to all. Be aware, a Tonto Pass is required to park here or else the fines can be steep. In the summer months (between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day), particularly on the weekends, this parking lot can be VERY crowded because the summer tubing season is in full swing. Those holiday weekends in particular can see upwards on 10,000 people by late afternoon. If going on a potentially busy summer day, it's best to launch here early in the morning before the crowds arrive and make sure vehicles are moved further down river. As with several other parking areas on this run, restrooms (pit toilets) are available.
|Put-In||Pebble Beach/Blue Point Bridge (Bus Stop #2)||
This area actually comprises 3 parking areas, Pebble Beach is on river right up stream of the bridge and Blue Point is on both sides of the bridge down stream. Some also refer to the area on river left as Sheeps Crossing, although this can be confused with a RAP on the Verde River as well. This area is a popular place for kayak or canoe practice because at least one of the three parking areas is accessable year round and the area just up stream of the bridge is somewhat pond like with a very gentle current at most flows. Summer weekends can see a large population of people, particularly tubers, but throughout the other three seasons, it's typically quite and a great place to launch for a shorter trip. As with several other parking areas on this run, Tonto passes are required to park and restrooms (pit toilets) are available.
This is a gated, private access only point. Both Desert Voyagers and Saguaro Lake Ranch regularly use it for tours and livery service trips, as does MCSO for launching their search and rescue boat when rescue calls happen. While it isn't available for individuals to launch, it is a good reference point when traveling down river since it is the only concrete ramp that enters the river on this run.
|Put-In||Goldfield (Bus Stop #4)||
Depending on the length of paddle one is looking for, this could be a put-in, a take out, or a handy beach on which to stop for lunch. For tubers though, this is the last takeout that summer time tubers are allowed to use. As such, this parking area at the end of Usery Pass Road suffers some of the same drawbacks as Water Users up above. However, in the spring and fall in particular, it can make a very handy access point for shorter trips. As with several other parking areas on this run, Tonto passes are required to park and restrooms (pit toilets) are available. In winter months, this access point may be closed by a locke gate on the road way leading in.
Coon Bluff is both a river access point and a campground, although it is worth noting that camping is only permitted between Oct. 15th and Apr. 15th. Throughout the summer, a gate may be closed after sun down. Like most of the parking areas, pit toilets and some picknick areas are present and Tonto Passes are required in parked cars. Launching may be a bit difficult due to steep banks in most areas, but there are a couple of reasonable slopes if one walks a few hundred yards up or down stream. Tubers aren't present, so paddlers often use this as a put in during summer months if they are starting out later in the morning or early afternoon. Throughout the year, it is used as a takeout too if one wants to avoid the slower current further down.
|Park-n-Play||Phon D Sutton||
The parking area and river put-in or take out or play area with the funny name, this is a popular destination for swimming and BBQ by the riverside in summer months. The Verde river joins the Salt at the first of two large parking lots you will come to and due to some very large stone formations, the river splits into multiple channels. These offer several beginner friendly pourovers and waves with easy ability to cycle back around at higher water and play repeatedly. Because of the influx of Verde river water and the fact that the two rivers together are used to feed the City's water needs, one can always put in here even when the up stream guage says that the Salt is too low to run. From here down though, the current will get progressively slower even at the highest levels, so past the play area expect to paddle to reach the end. Like most of the areas on this stretch of river, a Tonto Pass is required to park and pit toilet restrooms are available.
End of the line. Approximately a quarter mile from the parking area, another dam ends the water in the Salt River channel. Water is instead diverted into 4 canals that serve much of the Phoenix Metro Area. The Granite Reef parking area is rather small, and as a result trailers are not permitted to park in the parking area. As with other Lower Salt RAPs, Tonto passes are required, pit toilets are available, as are some BBQ grills and picknick areas.
|Rapid Name||Description||Scout||Class||Recommended Flow|
|Bull Dog (Rocky Road)||
Sometimes called Bull Dog for the cliff faces on river left just before the rapid, or alternitively called Rocky Road for all the large boulders the pop up at low water, this is a very simple class 2 in all but the lowest water. The biggest danger is the low sweeper/strainer (water level dependant) leaning out from river left at the bottom of the run. In high water (1200+) there will simply be a few rock tops to avoid and plenty of splashy waves. At low water, generally there will be three channels, with the middle bing the deepest and a large rock bar and bush complex between the right most channel and the middle channel. Again, beginner friendly being on the very bottom of class 2 but if you don't want to run anything bouncy it is optional. This rapid is located on the left side of an island. Running the right side, one will miss all but the last wave of the rapid, so about a quarter mile up, go right to avoid, left to run.
No need to scout, even at very low water with lots of rocks, it's still very easy to see all but the last wave from the last turn entering the rapid and the run barely rates a 2 anyway.
|II- to II||
A small play wave formed by a pair of submerged boulders, this is a great surf practice spot with a large eddy right beside it making repeat all day play possible.
No need, channel does narrow a bit coming around the bend, but it's two rocks and several big eddies all around.
Another popular play type area - when the water is up, one of the many channels that forms here has about a 1.5 foot pour through that is popular for surfing and play practice. At higher levels, might be possible to practice some in play boat moves and in-current rolls. Large eddy behind the rock the river pours past makes it very convenient to practice.
Scouting the run isn't necessary. Scouting to make sure you won't run over swimmers in the eddy behind the rock on busy days is.
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The following fish species are often found on this run. If you don't see a fish that you know lives on this river, please login and associate that fish species.
This species is green to brown in basic colour, with a distinctive marbled pattern (called vermiculations) of lighter shades across the flanks and back and extending at least to the dorsal fin, and often to the tail. A distinctive sprinkling of red dots, surrounded by blue haloes, occur along the flanks. The belly and lower fins are reddish in color, the latter with white leading edges.
Brown Trout have a yellowish belly, with black and red spots on the sides. This fish is a fresh, coldwater fish and is found all over.
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