By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 8/24/2019
Occurred: 9/7/2013
Topics/Keywords: #SaltRiver #Arizona Page Views: 3000
I bring friends and family on a short float on the lower Salt River.

Well, maybe it's because I went almost three years without making a river float. Or maybe it's because it's been Arizona-hot, and the Salt River is an inexpensive way to cool down. Whichever it is, even though I made a Salt River float with my friend, Keith, just a week ago, I planned another one for today. Invited were: my grandson, Zach; his buddy, Nick, and my old, dear friends Mike and Charles.

Due to lack of time for more (I had other things to accomplish today), we planned to make it just a two-hour run. But, first, Mike wanted to stop by my ex's, Michael's, to visit Patrick, his cat from years past who, in the midst of the drama surrounding my time with my most recent ex, wound up in Michael's care.

So I picked up Zach and Nick, and we met Mike and Charles at Michael's, where Patrick was pretty indifferent to his devoted previous owner's appearance, though he did allow Mike to spend a few minutes scratching his ears.

Which didn't stop him from resuming his Grumpy Cat expression before we left.

We then preceded to the river. Since we were doing a short run today, we unloaded the floats and bungee cords at Goldfield Recreation Area (where the commercial tubers take out), and then Charles followed me in his and Mike's Prius so I could park the Jesusmobile at Phon D. Sutton, our take-out. He then drove me back to Goldfield, where Mike and the boys had nearly finished inflating the floats.

I showed Zach how to attach them at the feet with bungee cords, to create a star-shaped structure that would allow us to talk to each other while we floated, but still be able to see all around us. Another benefit to this arrangement is that, no matter which way we might need to steer, someone would be in position to paddle in that direction.

Getting the assembly into the water was simple; and no one had serious trouble plopping into his respective float. The river caught us, and downstream we went!

Going clockwise around the structure, first were Charles (to my left), then Mike…

…And then Nick and Zach…

…And, finally, me. I think you can tell from our expressions that we were all happy to be here!

I don't know how Nick had spent the previous night, but he pretty quickly dozed off in the peace and quiet.

We didn't really take pictures during the float itself; the weather was only slightly clearer than last week and they would have been copies of the ones I'd taken then. We did not see the wild horses on this trip, which does sometimes happen, even on this rarely-traveled lower part of the river. Mike was disappointed and I had to promise him we could go again, and take the full 4-hour trip.

In any case, we arrived at Phon D. Sutton, where Zach hopped off his float and towed the rest of us to shore.

This time of year the water is much lower than in spring, of course. (In spring, the flow is augmented by snowmelt.) That meant that the "island", a centerpiece of water play, was actually now just a peninsula. But it's still fun to clamber over.

And despite my initial misgivings, there were several places where the current still ran, still creating a natural, horizontal, waterslide or flume, which Zach was quick to demonstrate.

I have to reprint a photo from Zach's very first visit to this spot, in June of 2006. That was the trip where, after playing, swimming, and climbing, he suddenly stopped and said, "You know…I think this is what Sun Splash [a local water park] was trying for!"

…Just another of the many things that make me so proud of Zach.

Anyway, I handed the camera to Charles for safekeeping, and headed down the flume, myself.

The current took us out into the middle of the river, where a friendly gravel bar made it shallow enough to stand.

Meanwhile, with their hands on the camera, Mike and Charles took pictures of themselves.

Out in the river, Zach spotted a rope hanging from a tree on the far back. "Can we go there?" he asked. (He is always very good at asking permission.)

I studied the river's surface. "That's a mighty strong current running over there," I said, doubtfully. But as I peered further downstream, I could see where it shallowed out again; people were crossing from one side to the other. "Okay," I said, finally. Zach and Nick immediately swam—with impressively powerful strokes, I should add—across. They made it to the rope; but, as I had seen, the water there was deep and the current was too strong for the boys to do anything but hang on!

Soon the water pulled them away and they returned…but then, tried the rope two or three more times before giving up on it.

Mike and Charles hadn't budged from their perch on the "island", but I got Charles to toss me the camera so I could take this heroic pose of them.

Another friend, David, had originally wanted to go on this float with us. However, he's a Phoenix native and had made this trip many, many times before. So he told me he and his dog, Osa, would meet us here at Phon D. Sutton. It took awhile before we spotted each other—I had told him some Zach stories, and apparently he thought Zach was still five years old, so when he saw me at a distance with teenagers, he didn't think it was me at first. But we did get to meet up, and at least Osa had a very enjoyable time playing in the water, too.

I found this little puddle appealing, knowing that in six months it will be completely inundated.

Among the locally prominent mountains, my favorites are Four Peaks. I got a kick out of the way they were juxtaposed beyond the "island".

But then I crossed over the island, and found the river view even more appealing.

It always tickles me how inventive kids are. Swimming, climbing, running, a place like this is a treasure-trove of opportunities for youngsters who aren't afraid to do stuff.

Anyway, we were all supposed to go to a party later so we had to cut short our visit. Everyone crammed into the Jesusmobile for the trip back to our put-in, so Mike and Charles could retrieve their car. The Jesusmobile was quite crowded, what with five people and five floats. Mike was apparently unaware that he was sitting against one of the clamps of my jumper cable. I can't begin to guess how he didn't notice it, but when we got to Goldfield and he stepped out, there was the evidence, branded into his back!

Fortunately, it faded quickly, so there was no real harm done.

So that was today's river float. We continued on to my friend Peter's 60th birthday party, all of us invited although Mike had homework due at midnight so he and Charles couldn't stay long.

But I believe I have them both looking forward to another trip!