4WD Adventures
4wd Adventures

Mountain Biking Adventures

Biking Adventures

Hiking Adventures

Hiking Adventures

Quick Trip Reports

Who are the Experience Arizona Adventurers?

Matt Marine

Matt Marine is an Arizona resident who loves exploring Arizona's wonderful outdoor adventures. To find out more about Matt, click the link below.

more ...


Cat-Dog is my faithful trail companion. Her real name is Cammie. Why do I call her Cat-Dog?

more ...


Sara Harelson

I’m Sara! I’m 21, a senior in college, and a journalism major.  I love to read, write, travel, and listen to music.  I’m always on to my next adventure.


See Intern Page for previous interns

Conquering the Depths of the Salt River

Story and Photos by Amanda Oien

During the summer in Arizona, the mercury finds its way up to 114 degrees and a continual hot breeze kisses your shoulders, as if it’s the devil himself reminding you that you might be closer to hell than you think.

Thousands of people, like myself, brave the heat, the sunburns, and the inevitable dehydration to float down the Salt River in Mesa, Arizona.

Those risks run high while tubing the Salt River. But my main concern was conquering the sometimes-unforgiving rapids and not injuring myself or losing everything, including my phone, to the depths of the Salt River.

To protect my feet from the jagged river bottom, I wore Jellies. My friends and I stood in line for the Salt River Tubing bus to pick us up. My Jellies felt like they were melting against the dirt. My feet were becoming uncomfortably warm.
Solace. The bus had arrived.
After a sticky bus ride that lacked air conditioning to the river’s landing point with my inner tube in hand, my friends and I got in the river to prepare for our four hour voyage.

Although not recommended by the Salt River staff, we tied our inner tubes together so we wouldn’t drift apart.

While we organized our things, the sun began flirting with my black rubber inner tube. My inner arm brushed against my tube, forcing me to instantly pull back— the sun had made my inner tube too hot to touch.

To ensure not getting burned while floating down the river, we dipped sheets into the river before draping them over our tubes.
Salt River Tubing reported the river as rocking and urged people to hold on tight, especially with the white water rapids in spots. The river was reportedly at 1000 CFS or cubic feet per second.

While the river’s current was faster than usual, it still felt like a lazy river at times. The laziness gave us time to take in the beauty around us. As we floated near the banks, I looked up and saw towering burnt orange and red cliffs above us, creating a haven of shade. As we floated along the river, Mesquite trees, Creosote, and a variety of cactus surrounded us. Red-winged blackbirds would swoop down close to the water’s edge and fly back into the reeds to hide.

Along our trip, we were lucky enough to see about six horses scattered along the banks. Some were hidden in the shrubbery; some came to the river’s bank to drink water. Growing up, I rode horses and have always thought they were beautiful and graceful animals. When we saw the wild horses, I was so excited. Its experiences like seeing horses in the wild that make me appreciate the beauty that I am so fortunate enough to have in my backyard. There are less than 500 wild horses on Arizona public lands. Some of these wild horses find their home along the lower Salt River.

The ying and yang of the river is the laziness, greeted by the abrupt and roaring rapids.

Hold on tight? You bet.
The key? Lifting up out of the center of the inner tube to avoid being scraped, cut and thrown around by the rocks below.

The rapids are kind at first – they started small, with shallow little waves that pushed my inner tube up and down. Each time we approached any kinds of rapids, I frantically looked for the inner tube that held a bucket with all of our belongings— snacks, water, sunscreen and most importantly, my cell phone.

While my cell phone was in a waterproof case, it was also in a hiking backpack that was filled with Gatorade. If that green backpack managed to get out of the bucket, my biggest fear would become a reality— losing it to the depths of the Salt River.

Nearly two miles into our voyage is when we experienced the big rapids.
With 1000 CFS, they were stronger than usual and louder than usual.

We were ready.

We positioned ourselves to hopefully not crash into the tree-lined banks and made sure our belongings were stuffed into the bucket.

The first few rapids were sweet, giving us a little taste of what was really in store for us.

Before turning around the bend where we could see huge sandstone rocks blanketed by gushing water, I made one last check of the bucket. Everything was there. For now.

Lift up.
Look ahead.
Get ready.

My inner tube dipped down before a huge rock and flung up with the rapids, pushing my body down towards the middle of the inner tube— exactly what I was trying to avoid.
I hit the rock. The pain shot up my body and down towards my legs.
I looked for the bucket with the green backpack.
It was there.
We had made it.
And my phone did too.

Immediately after the rapids, the calm water looks like the exact definition of chaos. Some tubes and rafts get overturned; leaving people scrambling for any items they can save before the depths claim them as their own.

We continued floating down the river, finding another haven of shade beneath a bridge. My Scandinavian roots aren’t forgiving under the hot Arizona sun, so I took the moment to reapply more of my 50SPF sunscreen.

At the end of the river, we pulled our inner tubes against the strong current of the river and onto the banks. We unloaded our trash that we had collected during our voyage and cut our ties.

Exhausted, thirsty, hungry and desperately wanting a clean shower, I loaded up the car and drove home… with my phone in hand.

I escaped a sunburn and braved the heat. But most importantly, I conquered the depths of the river below my feet. Until next time, Salt River.

Additional Photo From the Trip


Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here.

Member Comments

No member comments yet.

back to top