The salt river is an amazing oasis in the desert that can be enjoyed day or night! Depending on the section, you can float the salt river all year round. With the right planning, you can have a great day out on the water. The salt river in Arizona just below Saguaro lake flows all the way down to the Granite reef dam.
1. The Salt Rivers Put-in/take-out Locations:
Water Users Recreation Site
This is the highest point accessible with a tonto pass on the salt river in Arizona.
Photo: Water Users recreation starting spot.
Photo: Water Users recreation site parking lot.
Pebble Beach Recreation Area & Blue Point Recreation Area:
There is a bridge along the salt river with 2 different parking lots:
Photo: Blue Point Recreation Area
Photo: Pebble Beach Recreation Area
This an overflow parking lot that the forest service opens only on busy weekends and holidays when the bridge parking areas fill up.
Goldfield/Take out/Tuber exit
This is a large parking lot and is about ¾ of a mile in from the main tubing location. The water can be fast moving and more difficult for younger kids or beginners to get out.
Photo: Point 4
Photo: Goldfield/Take out/Tuber exit
Coon Bluff Recreation Area
This parking area is well known for rappelling and day use. It is open for camping during the cooler months of the year. Because of the rocks that surround the area, it not used a lot for put in or take out.
Phon D. Sutton recreation Area
This is a very popular spot on the weekends for day use folks. It is not uncommon to see shade canopies all along the shore.
Photo: Phon D. Sutton recreation Area
Photo: Phon D. Parking Lot
Granite Reef Recreation Area
This is the smallest parking lot on the salt river in Arizona but there is overflow parking along the road. Be sure to keep all four tires off the pavement or you will get a ticket.
This is a popular spot to go if you have only one car. It is relatively easy to put in here, paddle upriver, float back down and take out in the same spot.
2. Go Buy a Tonto Pass Before Parking
You do need a Tonto Pass to park in the parking lots and a second shuttle vehicle is needed to make the transition off the salt river easy.
3. The Most Popular paddleboard/kayak routes along the Salt River in Arizona
Users to Goldfield
Length: 6 river miles
Time: 2 -2 ½ hours
Pebble Beach to Goldfield
Length: 4 river miles (1 ½ – 2 hours)
Pebble Beach to Phon D
Length: 7 river miles (2 – 2 ½ hours)
Users to Phon D
Length: 9 river miles (2 – 3 hours)
Users to Granite Reef
Length: 12 miles
Time: 3 ½ – 4 hours
Bridge to Granite Reef
Length: 9 river miles
Time: 3 – 3 ½ hours
Phon D to Granite Reef
Length: 3 river miles
Time: 1 – 2 hours
4. Additional important notes and fun facts on the Salt River
There are a couple of rapids on the salt river in Arizona that have names.
This is the first rapid you hit after getting on at Water Users. It is about ½ mile down stream from the put in. There is a rock on salt river right as the salt river bends to the left. During low water, the rock sticks out and becomes a hazard.
Pinball Alley/Bulldog Rapid:
This is the only rapid on the lower salt rated as a class 1 rapid. At low water, there are a lot of exposed boulders. At high water, large waves form on salt river right.
Photo: Top of Pinball Rapid
After Snaggle tooth rapid there is a large section of the salt river that is very wide. At times the salt river feels as though it’s going backward in this section. You have a choice to go left or right. If you go right you will come out down the salt river just below pinball rapid. If you go left, you will hit some small rapids and then pinball rapids.
There are two visible large palm trees on the salt river. One, is at the top on river left at water users. The other is at Granite Reef on river right.
Throughout the salt river in Arizona, there are spots where you can choose left or right. They all end up at the same place but some choices are more fun than others.
One spot that is a crowd favorite is at Coon Bluff. You will know you are at Coon Bluff because it is surrounded by huge rocks. You can choose to go right through “the reeds” or left through some fun small rapids. Horses tend to gather in the areas just below Coons Bluff if you go left. The reeds are a section that is very narrow and shallow. During ow water is a difficult stretch to navigate.
Photo: The Reeds at Coons Bluff
The Verde River flows into the salt river at the Phon D recreation site. When the salt river is not flowing, the Verde River usually is.
5. The Best Animals to be seen on the Salt River in Arizona:
Horses, Javalina, bighorn sheep, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, deer, skunks, salt river otters, turtles, frogs, fish, Bald Eagles, Osprey, and many other types of birds.
Photo: Salt River Horses
Photo: Salt River Racoon