April’s Arizona Bucket List: Whitewater rafting

For the first time in more than a decade, Salt River Rafting trips on the Upper Salt will continue into May, thanks to our wet winter months.
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 9:25 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -This year’s incredible snowpack across Arizona is now melting, leading to one of the best river rafting seasons since the late 1990s.

Salt River Rafting usually runs guided trips down the Upper Salt River between late February and late April. But this year, they’re able to keep the trips going all the way into May.

“This season there’s a lot more water,” said river guide Ara Marine. “The trips don’t take as long but it’s more high-quality rafting. Bigger splashes and more fun rapids.”

Marine doesn’t remember the last time the river level was this high.

“It changes everything!” she said. “All the rapids change at different water levels. Some of the harder rapids gets easier and some of the easier rapids get a little more difficult. And the waves just get bigger.”

The company puts in their rafts on the Upper Salt River about halfway between Globe and Show Low, which is about a two-hour drive from Phoenix. The river is moving much faster than the Lower Salt River, which is where most people tube and kayak. The Salt River Canyon formed by this river is sometimes dubbed “Arizona’s other Grand Canyon.”

We got the opportunity to go rafting on a stretch of the river recently and had a blast. Of course, we wore a wetsuit under our life vests since the water is currently about 45 degrees. The half-day tours include class 2 and class 3 rapids, and the trip is considered “family friendly.”

“It’s got a little bit of everything,” said Marine, which includes events for people who just want to come out and look at the wildflowers. “We’ve got great raft guides out here, so if you’re nervous to go through the rapids, we’re going to teach you how to do that.”

Half-day and full-day trips down the Upper Salt range from $120 to $200 per person. The company also offers multi-day trips along the river. The trips are expected to run through mid-May this year. Tap/click here for more info on Salt River Rafting!