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Salt River Canyon
April 23, 2017
by Tamar Gottfried
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Michael Humphrey
One steering and six rowing. Hmmm. [photo by Mild to Wild Rafting]
Let’s shoot the rapids! [photo by Mild to Wild Rafting]
Ready to start our rafting adventure. [photo by Michael]
Karen, Bill, David, Yanis, Billie, Ken, Monika, Tom, Mimi, Gary, Tamar, Sandy, Gerry, Ann

2017 was the best Arizona snow melt since 2010, making high water levels and making it a banner year to run the rapids of the Salt River. 17 Trailblazers became river runners for the day as we met up at the Globe McDonald’s for late breakfast. We proceeded to caravan to the bottom of the Salt River Canyon, stopping right before the bridges at the rest stop. We were thrilled to discover a set of stairs leading down to a viewing area to look down on the river and walk under the bridges. I was grateful for the nice views of the Salt River, as well as the opportunity to get a little exercise on this low calorie-burn day.

The Salt River rolls along. [photo by Tom]
US 60
The old bridge. [photo by Tom]
Stairway to adventure. [photo by Tom]
Bridges old and new. [photo by Tom]
Let’s look this over. [photo by Tom]
Time to go. [photo by Tom]

We piled back into vehicles for the short drive across the bridge to turn off on a dirt road leading to our meeting place for rafting. Several rafting companies including ours, Mild to Wild Rafting, share a large dirt lot across the road from the river and this is where we parked, signed in and suited up with personal flotation devices, helmets, paddles and splash jackets. Then our guides walked us down to the river for a brief “intro to rafting” talk.

Our safety instruction was interrupted by a magnificent bald eagle circling above. We all watched the bird going higher and higher near canyon walls until it flew out of our vision. Our attention turned back to our rafts. We split into 3 groups and boarded our rafts, some of us more elegantly than others, and we were off.

Bald eagle circling above. [photo by Michael]
These are the rafts we’ll be riding. [photo by Tom]
Put on plenty of sun lotion. [photo by Tom]
Now hear this! [photo by Ann]
We put our rafts in the river. [photo by Ann]

Our first rapid, a Class II, was exhilarating and wet. With 90 degree heat, we were relieved to get splashed occasionally and sometimes soaked on the rapids. After a few II and III rapids, mingled with periods of calm floating with time to admire the surrounding canyon’s beauty, we arrived at our lunch spot.

Lunch was at Camp 2, where the river guides live. We disembarked and got our land legs again. The site has 2 toilets, a sun shade, picnic tables and fresh cool water to drink. Our guides promptly whipped up a delicious lunch of cut veggies, chips and salsa, steak or veggie burgers, macaroni and potato salad, lemonade and cookies. After resting a bit, it was back to the rafts.

Yes, we can do this. [photo by Michael]
What a blast! [photo by Ann]
Rocks in the river mean rapids ahead. [photo by Michael]
Yes, we’re going there. [photo by Michael]
Onward, brave hearts! [photo by Michael]
We didn’t get too wet this time. [photo by Michael]
Has everyone gotten through? [photo by Michael]
Lunch break. [photo by Michael]

The afternoon rapids included some of the more exciting Class III ones, even one that had a hole in it called the “Guide Buster”. We all emerged damp and intact, without falling out the boat (called going for a swim in river talk). Only one person sustained a minor injury after a large bump during a rapid. The guides were prepared with first aid. A bonus was seeing the entrance to the hike to Cibecue falls. Unfortunately the beauty of that water feature was hidden further in and we didn’t have time to add on the hike to the falls.

We’re down at the bottom of Salt River Canyon. [photo by Michael]
In places like this we can enjoy the scenery. [photo by Michael]
Ramming Speed. [photo by Michael]
There’s those Bloody Rapids. [photo by Michael]

After our last big rapid, we reached the out point. We helped bring the rafts up to the waiting classic school bus. When all the gear was secured, we piled into the bus and began the bumpy ride back to our cars on a single track dirt road. We saw some folks from one of the other company’s tours stranded because the clutch on their bus had failed. We also watched the buses do an elaborate dance to pass each other when their rescue bus was on its way. We even crossed water at Cibecue and our guides had to rearrange the river rocks so that we wouldn’t get stuck. The trip was nice in that we could see the river below us that we had just traveled and we got a different perspective of the river and canyon.

Here’s where we get out of the river. [photo by Michael]
I want my rocks in a row. [photo by Michael]
Putting the rafts back on the trailer. [photo by Ann]
The ride back to where we started. [photo by Michael]
Dinner at Guayos [photo by Tom]
Dinner at Guayos [photo by Tom]

When we reached our starting point 30 minutes later, good byes to our wonderful guides were said and we headed back to the rest stop to change into dry clothes. Our west Phoenix rafters headed straight for home. The the rest of us met up again in Globe for a nice dinner at Guayos. We arrived back in Mesa around 8 PM in good spirits after a nice day of sun, cool water, beautiful scenery, thrilling adventure and great companionship. A big thanks to the people at Mild to Wild rafting.  I can’t wait to do a multi-day trip with them in the future!

→   More pictures, by Tom
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updated May 3, 2017