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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

River Float with the Rizzos

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/19/2024
Occurred: 7/24/2022
Page Views: 659
Topics: #SaltRiver #Gianna #Dominic #Zach
I go down the river with my grandkids.

I haven't made a visit to the Salt River since before I moved to Maui. It's not that I haven't thought about it; but with my weakened ankles I wasn't confident in my ability to navigate the rocky trails. So I didn't try; but today I was invited to go with my daughter Jenny and her family and I was very grateful to go!

Running through the heart of Central Arizona, the Salt River (previously known as the Rio Salada, originally known as Onk Akimel) flows. And during the summer when temperatures can easily reach 110°, the cool water beckons humans and equines alike.

It's hard to predict how long a river float will take, because it depends not only how fast the water is flowing, but also how efficiently one steers one's float away from eddies where the current doesn't flow. For today's float, Zach and I decided to put in at Blue Point and take out at Phon D. Sutton. There's another, unnamed, possible put in anout a mile upstream, but even on a high flow day (earlier in the year, when the snows on the Superstitions and beyond are melting) that would have taken at least 4 hours to get to Phon D. Sutton. My guess was Blue Point to Phon D. Sutton would take two or two-and-a-half hours. (I was wrong.)

There are two parking areas on opposite sides of Bush Highway. Blue Point is on the left; Pebble Beach is on the right. It's possible to put in on either side, but Pebble Beach has a much longer walk to the river, and mostly on the described pebbles, which would be unpleasant even if my ankles were in perfect shape. Plus, today, it was mobbed with what appeared to be ebery car in Arizona. So, Blue Point it was.

Dominic and Justine posed for a selfie in the shade as the adults unloaded the van. It's a 22-minute round trip between Blue Point and Phon D. Sutton to drop off the take-out vehicle and return, so there was plenty of time to blow up the floats. Bags of snacks and life jackets were carried to a bluff just above the river where I guarded them.

While on snack guard duty, I spotted one of the wild horses that live in this riparian paradise casually strolling through.

The three kids wandered to the river's edge to check out where we would put the floats in the water.

And, as each float became inflated, the Littles helpfully tried it out.

Finally, with Zach and Jimmy back from placing the take-out car, the centerpiece of our floating regatta was inflated and brought down to the river.

I'm grateful to have been allowed to just watch as the rest of the group skillfully brought the floats to the river, roped and bungeed the floats together, before I was allowed to come down and get in. The rocks in the water were slippery but Jimmy and Justine helped steady me.

Our floating city consisted of three floats: A large one that could seat a baseball team, complete with river access through a hole in the middle. In addition, we had a two-person float, and a one-person float.

Blue Point Recreation Area isn't just a put-in point for river floats. Lots of families come down just to picnic and keep cool. We said hello (and in many cases, Hola to the nice people picnicking on the river's edge that we had to pass to drag our flotilla to the water.

Here's Zach giving us a push into the current.

And away we go!

This was a first river float for Gianna, Dominic, and their neighbor friend Brinkley, as well as Daddy Jimmy.

Jenny had gone several times with me in years past; I was so proud she'd learned everything she needed to know to put together a family outing. (Except for a paddle; but we actually found an abandoned one shortly after we realized one would be handy, so that doesn't count.)

Once on the way, there's little to do but lean back and enjoy the scenery. It's easy to splash water on oneself to keep cool; or, like the kids did, just swim alongside the floats.

While the river was crowded (to be expected on a hot Sunday), I've actually seen it worse. And, for much of the trip, we were separated from other groups by reasonable distances.

The wild horses were everywhere! They seem to tolerate the floaters, while the floaters seem to keep respectful distances.

Jenny wanted me to get a shot of her with the horse in the background. However, she was sitting next to me in the dual float, so I didn't get all of her beautiful face,

Usury Mountain dominates the skyline in the stretches of river that align with it.

The Salt River is the largest tributary of the Gila River. The river is about 200 miles long. It has been dammed in several places; this stretch, known locally as the Lower Salt, lies between the Saguaro Lake dam, and the Granite Reef dam.

The Salt River wild horses are the historic and majestic creatures roaming the lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. They are the pride of the community, a favorite subject of photographers and the icon of the wild, free spirit of Arizona and the American West.

As we drifted along, we slipped into a number of eddies, which didn't help our travel speed. Plus, the river wasn't flowing very fast anyway. So what I hoped would be a two hour trip, was rapidly stretching out to four. Jimmy, the most type-A among us, gets props for being so laid back about the vagueness of the trip duration.

Dominic was a big help with the oar we found.

Neither Dominic nor Gianna really need life jackets to stay afloat; both are strong, expert swimmers, But in a real river there are rocks and shallow spots, and more than one free floater has been knocked unconscious and would have drowned if not for their life jacket. So.

We then approached a section of the river called the Mud Cliffs. In them is a natural hollow or cave; it's not too far up the cliff wall to climb, which people do because the river here is also quite deep and therefore fun to jump into. (We didn't, though there was some talk of it.)

After what seemed like forever, we reached Phon D. Sutton, our take-out point. This photo, taken from the paved parking lot, looks down towards the river we just left.

Zach and I decided that, on future trips, we'll put in at Goldfields, where most people leave; and that way the trip to Phon D. Sutton would be two hours at the most; in addition, there are fewer people—on weekdays, very possibly none.

But even if I wind up horribly sunburned tomorrow (the jury is still out; I'm reddish but more ruddy than red so I may not have lost all of my base tan!) it will have been so worth it for such a wonderful day.