Floating down the Salt River is a rite of passage for any Arizonan, but an hours-long, largely uncontrolled water ride in the desert with way fewer safety precautions than Splash Mountain is a bit daunting for any rational human being.
To make sure you enjoy the best possible experience, we’ve rounded up a list of tips to keep you safe and your experience fun.
Check the Calendar
The Salt River is typically open daily from May to Labor Day, then weekends through September, but things are subject to change so always be sure to double-check. Plus, there are occasionally themed days you won’t want to miss out on so look for those.
It costs $17 to float down the river if you rent a tube, but you’re also free to bring your own which will bring the cost down to the $14 shuttle fee (but make sure a tube you bring is inflated because they won’t inflate it for you!). Make sure to bring your ID if you’re renting. Also, if you lose your tube it’s $30.
What to Bring
For your tubes, consider bringing towels or sheets to drape on them because they get very hot.
You can also bring rope to tie your friends’ tubes and a cooler together. Speaking of a cooler, pack yours with snacks and even more water than booze (both in plastic bottles — no glass). Seriously, you’re in the desert. HYDRATE.
Lastly, bring a hat, cheap sunglasses and old sneakers or boat shoes. The rocks are sharp and you will lose things, so this isn’t the time to prioritize fashion. Lastly, marshmallows. Just trust us.
Don’t Bring the Little Kids
You have to be at least 8-years-old and four feet tall to float, so this might not be the right activity for the whole family. It’s also a little wild, so probably for the best. However, if you do plan to bring a child (that meets the requirements) don’t forget to bring an extra $6 for a life vest.
Get Ready for a Car Ride
The Salt River Tubing headquarters are in far East Mesa in the Tonto National Forest, meaning for most Valley-dwellers, it’s a bit of a journey.
The Salt River Recreation’s parking is free, but if you park in the public lot there is a fee. Either way, if you use the bus you’re charged for it. Make sure to park at whichever stop you plan to end at.
While the river is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., we recommend starting early to give yourself plenty of time to float (and get home) before it gets dark out. Trust us, you won’t want to miss the final bus at 6:30 p.m.
Even if you don’t think you’ll burn, trust us, you’ll burn floating down a reflective surface for six hours under the Arizona sun. We recommend SPF 50+ and bringing more with you to reapply. Listen to your mother’s wisdom on this one — this is not the time to work on your tan.
How It Works
There are four stops. You’ll start at point three where the Salt River Recreation facilities are. The full float (stop one to four) takes about five hours. You can also float from point one to two, or two to four, for a shorter float.
Have you gone floating? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to tag us in your photos using #DCFray and #FrayLife.
Interested in some other outdoor activities around Phoenix? Check out these awesome state parks!