My friend Gerry Moore is an amateur botanist. A very advanced amateur. He is always on the lookout for plant specimens, so we headed to the Salt River to do a little exploring. The Salt River is home to herds of wild horses, and I had hoped to see one of the herds.
The Salt River begins where the White and Black Rivers converge in the Fort Apache Reservation. It acts as the boundary between Fort Apache and the Tonto National Forest. The river continues through Tonto, filling the Roosevelt Lake. It continues to fill Apache Lake, Canyon Lake and finally Saguaro Lake.
All four lakes are formed by hydroelectric dams, part of the Salt River Project, where we get our electricity. Just past the lakes, the river is shallow. In the summer, it is a popular destination for tubing and kayaking. This is where the wild horses have free reign. This is where Gerry and I explored.
When we stopped, I saw movement, and thought we lucked out and would see the wild horses. The brush is dense, and it is difficult to get to the river’s edge. I had my camera out, equipped with my telephoto lens. The herd was on the other side of the river, moving downstream along the river. When I finally found an opening to the river’s edge, we discovered that my herd of wild horses was a herd of cows. Oh well.
We hiked the trails along the river. A hiker we passed warned us abut a snake he saw on the path we were on. I was on high alert – it is snake season. Even though we were on the lookout, Gerry stepped over a Diamondback Rattler sunning itself on the path. It was so completely camouflaged that neither of us saw it until it began rattling a warning.
Diamondbacks are usually non-aggressive, preferring to bluff, seeking only to be left alone. Most bites happen do to carelessness, accidentally stepping on one, or antagonizing them by getting too close. About fifty percent of bites are dry socket, meaning no venom is injected. If you are unfortunate enough to be one of the the other fifty percent, then you are in a world of hurt. This fellow quickly slithered of the path into a thicket, where it continued to rattle out a warning, telling us to leave.
Rattlesnakes are one of the reasons that I wear hiking boots and jeans when out in the desert, no matter how hot the temperatures.
The rest of our hike was uneventful. Gerry pointed out different plant species, including a mistletoe hanging from many of the trees.
The Salt River continues west, into Phoenix and vicinity, providing water to the city. Beyond, it is diverted to canals and then dries out for much of the year.
I am still continually amazed at the diversity of topography in our little portion of the Sonoran Desert. A couple fishing along the riverbank told us they watched an otter cavort on the rocks for 20 minutes, before swimming away.