By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/24/2019
Posted: 7/18/2010
Topics/Keywords: #Photograpgy #SaltRiver Page Views: 3159
We encounter a herd of wild horses while floating the Lower Salt River.

Today I went on a Salt River float with my daughter Jenny, and our friends Luca and Theresa. Luca is Michael's classmate at medical school, but Michael was a bit under the weather so did not join us. And too bad: We encountered a whole herd of wild horses, foraging along the river bank, just begging me to take their pictures…so I did.

The expedition started with me pulling out the river floats, since this was our first trip of the year…and the first trip taken since we moved into the new house in October. I inflated four floats, since Jenny was bringing a new one she'd just bought and I wanted a spare since I wasn't certain what shape the floats were in. After all, they are four years old.

Then I made breakfast: Scrambled-in-organic-butter organic eggs with a dollop of ranch dressing mixed in, a dozen cinnamon twists from the Basha's bakery down the street, and not-from-concentrate orange juice.

But by noon…or one…we were at the river, my SUV parked at the take-out, and Luca's car at the put-in, each with its Tonto National Forest parking tag, purchased for $6 on the way to the river.

We put in at the Blue Moon Recreation Area, which is where most of the tube-renters put in.

Paul, Theresa, Jenny, and Luca at the put-in.

We set out onto the water. This part of the river is usually crowded; the question is, how crowded will it be—and will it be rowdy crowded, or friendly crowded? Today it was friendly crowded, for the most part. And, oddly, many of the groups seem to consist of hot young men, with only a few women along.

Young stallions on the river.

Since I make it a point to photograph all the beautiful scenery on the river, I couldn't resist photographing one particular young man who could easily have a career modeling, in between his daily trips to the gym.

My favorite river stallion.

As the river widened, it seemed less crowded.

The crowd disperses as the river widens. Luca.

At a few points, the water got so shallow that some of our party stood and walked to avoid getting their delicate butts bumped by the rocks.

Others (like me) have enough padding that we could just ride on through.

The first "half" of the trick ends at Point 3, where all the renters and almost all the other floaters take out.

Point 3, the usual take-out point.

But we keep floating, and that's where the magic began. As nice as the float is anyway, it becomes even nicer when you have the river to itself. It becomes quiet enough to hear the birds; dragonflies rest on your leg; and the herd of wild horses comes to the river's edge to drink and forage.

Wild horses at the river's edge.

We kept very quiet and allowed the river to take us past, with me all the while furiously composing and shooting with my Canon G10. As our relative position shifted, it became clear that the beautiful white horse was, in a fact, a stallion.

The wild stallion of the lower Salt River.

The other horses took their cue from him; if he got nervous, they would bolt. But he must have figured we meant them no harm, though he made sure to keep himself between us and the rest of the herd.

Since there's a possibility I might have a "show" of my photographs in February, I of course was looking at all this with an artist's eye. What would these photos look like, as digital paintings?

Horse painting.

Jenny has seen these horses before; but for Luca and Theresa this seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime event. Luca is from Italy, and kept saying, "I cannot believe I am seeing wild horses in Arizona!"

Luca surveys the herd over the tops of his Adidas. Blue Heron on Salt River.

And we no sooner passed the second group of horses, when a blue heron got into the picture. Luca insisted on calling it a "pelican" which it did, indeed, resemble, especially when it flew low over the water and scooped up an unsuspecting fish into its pelican-like beak.

We then encountered a third group of horses.

Finally, after about 3½ hours on the river, we floated up to the Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area, where the SUV was waiting for us.

By now we were all pretty hungry, so after driving Luca and Theresa to their car at the put-in, we met at the house to change clothes for dinner at Fuddruckers.

Oh—when Luca got to his car, he discovered he'd gotten a ticket for not having a Tonto Parking Pass. But he had one! However, he hadn't actually dated it, and it hadn't occurred to me to tell him to. Fortunately, the price of the ticket was the same as the price of the parking pass, $6; and the parking pass he did buy could be dated and used some other time. And both Luca and Theresa were anxious to come back and do another river float soon.