Paddling down the Lower Salt River is a favorite activity for many adventurous Phoenix locals and visitors alike. A quick 30-minute drive out of metro Phoenix, the Lower Salt River is a beautiful oasis within the Sonoran Desert that is surrounded by cactus-covered hills and mountains. While it is commonly known for summer-time lazy river tubing, the Salt River has an abundance of wildlife as well. Wild horses, rabbits, hawks, and songbirds can regularly be seen around the river during a paddle.
One of the most common routes on the Salt River is from the Water Users Camp Circle to Granite Reef, which is approximately a four- to five-hour paddle and about 10 miles long. The paddle can be shortened by putting in at one of the recreational areas downstream of Water Users Camp Circle. Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards can be rented at nearby locations like Saguaro Lake Ranch and No Snow Stand Up Paddle Boards for individuals who don’t have their own. Saguaro Lake Ranch also provides pick-up and drop-off service. The walk from the parking lot to the river is only a tenth of a mile, but it is rocky and has hills, so kayakers with heavier kayaks may want to go with a friend or purchase a pull cart.
The river is very mild and is best kayaked in the early morning or evening to observe the most wildlife. During fall, spring, and winter seasons, the river is stocked with trout and bass. The flow and level of the river is restricted from October to March, so proceed with caution. Kayaking around the Granite Reef Recreational area is an alternative adventure when water levels are low.
The Salt River provides a unique desert adventure all seasons of the year. With the Four Peaks mountain range at your back and Red Mountain ahead of you, the multi-hour paddle will be one you won’t forget.