Enjoy an Adventure: Lower Salt River Kayaking

The Lower Salt River provides an exhilarating experience for river recreation enthusiasts. Divided into two sections, the upper and lower Salt River, each offers a distinct paddling experience. While the upper section demands skill and preparation, the lower section offers a more leisurely float downriver. This section attracts a wide range of water enthusiasts, including tubers, paddleboarders, kayakers, anglers, and wildlife viewers.

When to Set Sail

The flow of water through the Salt River is regulated by the Stewart Mountain Dam. During the summer months, the dam allows for increased water flow, providing ideal conditions for outdoor activities from May to October. The river’s flow during this time ranges between 400-1000 cubic feet per second (CFS). In contrast, from November to early May, the river maintains a consistently low flow at an average of 10-30 CFS. Surprisingly, the increased flow during the summer months actually enhances the floating experience, allowing water to flow effortlessly over rocks and other obstacles that may be exposed during low water periods.

Exciting Put-In and Take-Out Points

For kayakers looking to enjoy the Lower Salt River, two popular put-in points are worth considering: Coon Bluff Campground and Phon D Sutton Recreation Area. Coon Bluff offers an enjoyable start when the water flow is high, providing an exciting adventure during the summer months. However, when the flow is less intense, Coon Bluff can be shallow and slow-moving. Alternatively, Phon D Sutton, less than a mile down the road, is an excellent choice throughout the year due to the added flow from the confluence of the Verde River.

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To ensure a seamless kayaking trip, starting at Phon D Sutton and ending at Granite Reef Dam Recreation Area is recommended. This route covers approximately 4 river miles and can typically be completed in 2-3 hours. Unfortunately, kayakers cannot continue to paddle past the Granite Reef Dam, as the water from the Salt River is diverted into the Arizona Canal and the South Canal, serving Phoenix and surrounding cities. However, some kayakers enjoy launching their crafts at the Granite Reef Access Area and paddling upriver in the calm waters, creating an adventurous out-and-back experience.

Avoid the Bustle

The summer months attract many locals to the Lower Salt River, particularly with Salt River Tubing. While this creates a lively atmosphere, it can also lead to crowds and disturbances for other kayakers seeking a more peaceful experience. The tubers typically begin at Water Users Recreation Area and end at Point 4, causing congestion along this stretch. However, by planning early morning expeditions or avoiding this section altogether, kayakers can enjoy the river’s tranquility before the tubers take over. It is worth noting that Salt River Tubing operates from May to September.

Essential Tips

Before embarking on your Lower Salt River kayaking adventure, keep the following tips in mind:

  • All access points along the Lower Salt River require a Tonto Pass for parking, which costs $8.
  • Carry an ample supply of water and ensure you have the 10 essentials on hand.
  • To catch a glimpse of the famous Salt River Wild horses, start your journey early when wildlife is most active.
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Remember to make the most of your time on the Lower Salt River, immersing yourself in the stunning scenery and enjoying the thrill of kayaking. For more information and to plan your adventure, visit UpStreamPaddle.