A wonderful multiday run on the Upper Salt, from the Salt River Canyon Bridge on Highway 60 to Lake Roosevelt. See the Route 60 to Roosevelt Reservoir description. There is 60 miles of bouncing whitewater in a spectacular Sonoran Desert canyon. For gear-hauling rafts, a minimum flow is 1,200. The infamous rapid Quartzite is a solid class IV at most levels, but without the class V consequences that existed at high flows before it was illegally blasted.
A Wilderness permit is required from March 1st to May 15th. Normally a 3 or 4 day trip, the controlled wilderness section begins 20 miles downstream from Highway 60. If you don't have several days to spend and a permit, see the daily run description.
Relatively new to boating, I finally got to run the entire wilderness section. We ran in self-support duckies around 5,000 cfs. This was a trip where we set out to explore and push our personal limits as class III boaters. The river was big and powerful, off course, but surprisingly forgiving, I thought, based on my day-run experience on the Salt at 2000 or less flows. The hydraulics, boils, and horizontal recirculations in the gorge areas were very tricky and tended to turn unwary kayakers. Scouting the named rapids proved to be invaluable. I did not swim once in my AIRE Outfitter II, and my friends paddling loaded Tomcat I's and an out-of-balanced AIRE Force only swam five times each, with several of those swims being nothing more than unforced errors. They all had great "IK Rolls," (self-rescue and recovery on the fly)and were back in there boats and paddling even after getting hammered in the big waves of Black Rock and Corkscrew. Their slim bodies, strength-to-weight ratio, and their physical condition was key. I do not recommend this river at this level to anyone without a roll. Having to chase a swimmer and his boat down the river in the gorge sections would have put a damper on the trip for everyone.
Being in kayaks gave us one advantage over a raft: we were able to scout big rapids much closer, giving us the ability to portage if necessary. Black Rock and The Maze have class III kayak sneaks on the left.
This was an awesome, bucket-list trip for me!
Also check out the Roosevelt gage for conditions near the takeout.
Flows: The ÂSalt SeasonÂ occurs when the snow melts in the White Mountains of southeastern Arizona, usually beginning in March and ending in May. Sometimes good flows occur in February or last until June, but this only happens every 10 years or so. Adequate flows may also occur during Monsoon Season in July and August. For kayakers who just want to go downstream, 300 CFS is a minimum. For surfathon fun, 800 is a bare minimum, and 2,000-3,000 is optimal. For gear-hauling rafts, a minimum flow is 1,200.
The river has been run up to 28,000 cfs in 2 days but most sane boaters make 10K a cut off.
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Josh Copelan, Cat Tobin
Jesse Mogler, Josh Copelan, Sam Verutti
springtime on the Salt
early spring on the river
How to use a groover
Oar rigging Quartzite Falls
Surfing a raft at the Ledges
Rafting Quartzite Falls
Open Canoe in Quartzite
Salt River put in
Quartzite from below
Brad running the left of Black Rock
Salt River Arizona
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