Flooding at Salt River shuts down recreational access until water levels decrease

There is intense flooding along the Salt River in Arizona today, and access points for vehicles have been closed.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 5:50 PM MST
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SALT RIVER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- At the Salt River, crews are standing by after deadly water rescues this weekend. First responders have confirmed that they had a record-breaking number of rescues last week and that the current water level is among the highest they’ve seen.

“The water is so high right now. I am talking almost a hundred feet higher than usual here in this particular area. And the water, you can hear it behind us; it’s not usually like this. You don’t hear a rush like that,” said Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez, spokesperson for MCSO.

The Salt River is experiencing more flooding than MCSO has seen in years. “The waters don’t look that bad, but the undercurrent, the flow, I can tell you the water is going very, very fast underneath,” said Enriquez.

In the past week, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has made seven swift water rescues, a new record for this time of year. “A lot of them, if not all of them, had their life jackets on like we require, but this flow is just way too fast. And what is happening is that they weren’t prepared for it, meaning they didn’t know the water was going to be that fast,” Enriquez said.

The cause? Snowmelt and rain. But on top of that? The Salt River Project is now forced to release millions of gallons of water at a time. “SRP keeps telling us they’re releasing more water, and in addition to the rainwater, it’s making these waters very dangerous because of the flood,” Enriquez said.

Now, the three major Salt River access points, Phon D Sutton, Granite Reef, and Coon Bluff, have completely shut down. “U.S. Forest Service will make that determination in conjunction with MCSO, but they are closed until further notice,” said Enriquez.