Kayaking Salt River

Four Peaks from the Salt River
Four Peaks from the Salt River

Liz and I bought kayaks a month ago, and have been on the water every weekend.  Best purchase we have made this year.

The kayaks are Sundolphin Excursions. Ten foot, sit inside. Made in the USA! We got ours for less than $250 each – they are great beginners’ models.  Well built, stable, lightweight.

The wild horses
The wild horses

We have taken them to Canyon Lake the past three times. Just off of Canyon Lake is a cove that is reserved for non-motorized watercraft. In some areas the water is so shallow you scrape the bottom. In others, the bottom is 30 or more feet deep. You will see fish swimming below you as you paddle.

Today we decided to check out Saguaro Lake, the fourth and final lake in the series before they feed the Salt River. Note to self – “fuck Saguaro Lake”. Saguaro Lake is accessible from Bush Highway, unlike Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt Lakes which we access along the Apache Trail, Rt 88.

Yearling foal born this year
Yearling foal born this year

Saguaro Lake has easy access for motorized boats and pavilions for picnicking. However, it is not kayak friendly – there don’t appear to be any coves or areas that are off limits to motorized watercraft.

We decided to check out the Salt River. Generally, if you want to kayak the Salt River, you take two vehicles. You park one downstream where you wish to debark, and then set the kayaks out upstream. You need two Tonto passes – permits to park in the recreational areas of the Tonto National Forest – one for each vehicle.  Passes are $9 per day. They sell annual passes, too.

Recent forest fire last month left its mark
Recent forest fire last month left its mark

Since we were in one vehicle today, we had to select an area to set off without too much turbulent water and no rapids. Phon D Sutton is such a place. There are rapids on either end of the river.

We set in, and paddled up and down a nice stretch of river. Red-winged blackbirds flew along the shoreline. Four Peaks was visible in the distance. Bullfrogs croaked as we paddled. And a clan of wild horses made an appearance much to the delight of the bathers, boaters, and picnickers along the shore.

The Salt River in the Tonto National Forest has been home to wild horses since at least 1902, when the National Forest was created. The mustangs are descendants of horses brought here by the Spanish back in the 16th century.

The horses ignore the rafters and kayakers on the river, as they drink, and cool off from the 100 degree heat. However, it would be unwise to try to approach any of them, as they are wild. We were fortunate that this clan came out for a photo op. They posed, and finally retreated into the heavy growth that borders the river.

Next week, we are planning on taking two vehicles and making a nice 5-mile kayak trip through the rapids. Phon D Sutton is the second to last stop on the Salt River before it peters out into a trickle, feeding canals that provide water for Phoenix, AZ and adjacent areas.

It is also the edge of a recent wild fire that burned acres and acres, closing the Bush Highway down for a week. My friend Gerry Moore visited earlier this year, and we hiked this area when it was still lush and green. A wet winter and mild spring fed the luscious growth of vegetation that is now fuel for wild fires. Life and death in the desert.

However, these fires are important to nature. The wild horses evaded the fires, and dense undergrowth was cleared. The desert survived before we were here to manage it, and will survive long after we have left. Hopefully the horses will remain and reign

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