Difficulty II-IV
Length 60 Miles
Flow Range 800 - 10000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 109 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 06/26/2019 5:52 am

River Description

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.

Rapid Descriptions

Apache Falls

Class - 5.1 Mile - -0.1
Apache Falls is a large nearly unrunnable waterfall ledge above the put in for the Salt Canyon run. Running the ledge is illegal.

Put in at the falls

Class - Mile - 0
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The upstream most put in is at the base of Apache Falls upstream of the US Highway 60 bridge.

Island Rapid

Class - II+ Mile - 0.3
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Island rapid is a wave train with holes. Unless the river is above 1200 cfs it is best to avoid this rapid by using the normal access point at Mule Hoof Campground.

Mule Hoof Campground access point

Class - Mile - 0.5
Most boaters use this access point for the put in. The access road is across the street from the WMA permit office and gas station. A small Class II rapid is immediatly downstream.


Class - III Mile - 2
An island divides the flow. The deepest channel is on river right.


Class - III Mile - 2.5
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A wave train with a big hole on river left.


Class - III Mile - 3
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A shallow shoal on river left that is best run down a chute to the far right bank.

River Access

Class - Mile - 5.79
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Rafters and boaters often camp here.


Class - III Mile - 5.8
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A big wave train with some great play waves .

Cibeque Creek

Class - Mile - 6.8
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This river access point sometimes washes out when Cibeque Creek floods.

Lower Salt River Draw (Mescal Falls)

Class - III Mile - 8.4
A rock strewn wave train with occasional play holes.

Salt Banks

Class - Mile - 10.2
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A very small extreamly saline stream flows over a waterfall on river right into the Salt Canyon.

Ledges Rapid

Class - III Mile - 10.9
Ledges rapid is formed when the river flows over low angle quartzite ledges. This rapid has some of the best play waves and holes on almost any river.

Rat trap

Class - III Mile - 13.8
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A long rapid with big exploding waves and large holes. Rat Trap marks the start of a micro canyon of polished granite. The next 5 miles are reminiscent of California whitewater.


Class - III Mile - 13.9
Polished boulers, boiling eddies, irreglar waves and holes are common for the next few miles.

Canyon Creek

Class - Mile - 16.1
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Canyon Creek flows into the Salt on river left. This creek can be boated.


Class - III Mile - 16.35
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Granite is probably the largest rapid in the microgorge and marks the final drop before Gleason Flat.

Gleason Flat

Class - Mile - 18
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Gleason Flat is the middle access point for the Salt river and the point at which permits are required.

Eye of the Needle

Class - IV Mile - 21.6
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The Salt enters another granite microgorge and is pinched down as it flows over a ledge with a powerful hole. Scout and protauge on river left.

Black Rock

Class - IV Mile - 22.1
Black Rock is the final rapid in a small micro gorge. The Salt is choaked with sharp boulders and drops over some ledges. Alternate lines exist but most rafts will run river right near a 6' pourover. Scout from river left.


Class - III Mile - 26.5
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The Salt is split by a huge boulder. Most rafts must run right but hard boats can run slots down the left.

Lower Corral

Class - III Mile - 28.9
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A wave train with a huge hole in the center at higher flows.


Class - III Mile - 29
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Pinball has everything from large waves and holes to boiling eddies. Don't swim here or you could wash into Maze, a dangerous rapid.


Class - IV Mile - 29.1
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Maze is a complex rapid that starts with a pair of big holes on river left and then snakes around a corner toward the right to feed a narrow canyon with boiling eddies. This is not a fun rapid to swim or flip a raft.

Quartzite Falls

Class - IV Mile - 31.5
Quartzite Falls was once the bane of Salt raft trips. At almost all flows it involved a half day portauge and difficult rope work. Those days are gone, becuase the rapid was destroyed with dyanamite. Quartzite Falls is now an easy class IV or III rapid with a small but shallow hole at the base on river right. This once infamous rapid is now one of the smaller "big drops" on the Salt. Scout on river right and portauge on river left.


Class - IV Mile - 31.7
Corkscrew is still one of the biggest rapids on the Salt. This complicated wave train has huge hole and exploding waves. A swim here can be long and rafts can flip here at higher water. Often boaters forget about Corkscrew in the excitiment of Quartzite Falls. Portauge from river left.


Class - II+ Mile - 34.1
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Cliffhanger is an easy shoal with a huge rock in the main flow. The eddie on river left near the big boulder is very difficult to escape in a raft.

Cherry Creek

Class - Mile - 35.6
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A nice side hike with clean clear water.

Horseshoe Bend

Class - Mile - 37.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
An alternate access point and the launching spot for tubers during the summer.


Class - Mile - 51.7
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Take out on river left.

Diversion Dam

Class - 5.1 Mile - 52
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Don't go here this 3 foot dam creates a lethal hole. Take out at the bridge before this drop.


default user thumbnail
Jon Vick
6 months ago

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!

Gage Descriptions

Also check out the Roosevelt gage for conditions near the takeout.

Flows: The “Salt Season” 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.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports



article main photo

Salt River Not Open (AZ)

Jason Robertson

In recent days, AW has received several reports that the Salt River is in fact closed and that it has not been reopened from Apache Falls to Roosevelt Lake as previously reported. AW staff will look into the situation after returning from Gauley Fest in late September.

Matt Muir


Thomas O'Keefe


Megan Hooker


Kestrel Kunz


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1189917 04/28/05 n/a n/a
1207050 12/05/16 Thomas O'Keefe permit updated
1198891 12/01/10 Thomas O'Keefe permit update
1204204 02/20/15 Megan Hooker Permit information update
1207047 12/05/16 Thomas O'Keefe permit updated
1208056 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz
1211817 04/02/19 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1213046 06/26/19 Kestrel Kunz updated image position