Last year at the end of the AZ monsoon season, Dara and I floated the upper stretch of the Salt River from Hwy 60 to Cibeque Creek. The flow was only at 300 cfs and I was dreaming of what it would be like at 1000 or even 500. Between Feb. 15th and May 15th, the Tonto F.S. requires lottery style permits to float the Salt River. So when May 16th rolled around and the flow was still at 500, Gil, Blair and I decided it was time to do a 4 day float down the Salt. I had floated the upper eight miles, but none of us had floated the entire 50 miles from Hwy 60 to Roosevelt Lake. Anticipation and excitement was high as the three of us drove down to the take-out. There we rolled Blair’s motorcycle off the back hitch-rack and stashed it among the Palo Verde Trees – at the end of the float, we planned for Blair to motorbike the 60 miles back to the truck, load the motorbike, and then come back for us and the boats. By Friday night we were camping at the put-in, steering the boats around moonlit water, and drinking next to a fire. We were on the River by 9:00am Saturday morning. We all took inflatable kayaks (duckies) and they are a good option for the Salt at lower flow levels. Blair and Gil had one-person boats and I had a tandem boat with a large cooler in the second seat.
The day consisted of floating, drinking beer, scouting rapids and then running rapids. Gil was not feeling safe in his new boat – it was an advanced ducky and none of us had the skills to paddle it like it was meant to be paddled. Gil took a couple swims (one in Little Boat Eater rapid) and got spooked , so Blair and I took turns running Gil’s boat through the scarier rapids while Gil walked around.
We approached Rat-trap rapid and it looked like a big drop so I headed to a beach for scouting and Gil followed. I turned around and there went Blair punching into the rapid! He flipped! When I saw he was safe I went running after his capsized boat that was headed down river. I got the boat and later Blair said that was the fastest he had ever seen me run.
We made camp at about mile 13 and grilled up some delicious top sirloin steaks, complete with coal baked potatoes, onions and peppers all wrapped in a tortilla. The next morning Gil was violently ill and the day took on a survivalist feel. I took Gil in the back of my larger ducky and boat control was difficult since Gil could not paddle. Blair towed Gil’s gear-loaded boat. Running rapids in this configuration was quite interesting.
We made it down to Gleason Flats in the lunch hour. There we met a local 4×4 crew from Globe, AZ. They were happy to help and take Gil and gear back to the truck at the put-in. Gil was feeling better and this was the safest decision for us all.
We were having so much fun that I forgot that Black Rock (a class IV waterfall) was coming up. It was hidden by a sharp swift-water turn and when we were upon it we had no choice but to nail the move. We nailed it and we were soooooo pumped to still be alive.
At about mile 27 we ran into four more river runners from Utah and California. They were impressed with the large coolers strapped to our duckies, and were stoked to have an ice cold beer. They cubed up some of our block ice and served us cocktails of rum, tonic and lime. We camped together, played bachi ball and all shared a wonderful dinner. We wrapped top loin pork chops with bacon and poblano peppers, grilled them to perfection, then served them over veggie rice and tortillas.
For breakfast we had strong coffee with fresh cream and a pound of bacon.
Around noon on the fourth day we made it to the take out where Gil waited with the truck. It was nice to not have to do the shuttle! We loaded gear and motorcycle and hit the road.