Go with the flow: A guide to paddle boarding on the Salt River

Nicole Underwood

Salt River paddle boardingNo Snow SUP

By Nicole Underwood / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

(MARICOPA COUNTY, AZ) - Arizona has many popular activities to experience for in the early days of summer. Known more for its desert than their bodies of water, the sunny state has more to offer than just hiking, camping and golfing. This year, try exploring a cool adventure during the heat - like an afternoon floating on a paddle board along the Lower Salt River.

Located just north of Pinal County, the Salt River is full of recreational activities that keep tourists and residents alike coming back. One of the most popular activities, Salt River tubing, has been a tradition in this area for years. But, now other forms to enjoy the water are floating to the surface, like kayaking and paddle boarding.

Paddle boarding has been on rise nationally in recent years, especially during the quarantine months of 2020. Here in Arizona, paddle boarding is nearly a year-round activity, thanks to our mellow fall and spring weather, and decent water flow during those seasonal months. In the winter however, the Salt River levels become too low to enjoy the full water flow. However, you can still chill by the shallow river’s edge to take in the beauty of the water, outdoor scenery and wildlife.

Currently, paddle boarding continues to be the fastest growing sport in the U.S., as stated by the Outdoor Industry Association. If this is your first time to the sport, it may be helpful to know where to start. Both solid and inflatable stand-up paddle boards (known to regular boarders as SUPs) are desirable recreational toys to have. They are both easy to transport and versatile to use wherever you have access to a large body of water. This convenience alone, along with the affordability, durability and simplicity of use compared to other outdoor recreational options, makes paddle boarding an understandable popular activity.

Want to purchase your first paddle board? There are many different boards to choose from, with most quality boards range in price from $600-$1200 and up. All-round boards — the most common type — is a good place to start. They are wider in width for stability and balance, made of PVC material and great for portability. You can also invest in fishing paddle boards, with accessories like a chair and a place for your tackle box, touring boards for bigger bodies of water or racing boards designed for long stretches at optimal speed.

Don’t own a board? You can rent paddle boards nearby at No Snow Paddle Board Shop, located just off of the 60 freeway and Power Road, on your way to the Salt River, with affordable prices, kayak options, and a variety of boards and accessories to purchase if you become hooked and want to own a personal board. They also host events perfect for beginners to learn everything there is to know about paddle boarding and the Salt River.

Floating with a furry friendNicole Underwood, NewsBreak

Next, the Salt River is the perfect place to experience paddle boarding, even with your furry friend (if they are a fan of the water.) While you can enjoy paddle boarding along one of the many Arizona lakes available, the lower Salt River is a popular destination for many reasons.

The Salt River (O'odham / Pima: Onk Akimel, Yavapai: Hakanyacha or Hakathi) is approximately 200 miles long and is connected to the Verde River, controlled by the Stewart Mountain Dam. The name “Salt River” derives from the large salt deposits that enter the water after the merging of the White and Black Rivers, increasing the river's length to approximately 300 miles. Season for river usage is between May and September, when the river is fully flowing and the dam is releasing water. But often, people head to the river as early as March and into mid-October, depending on weather and water levels.

Paddle boarders can enjoy a leisurely 2-3.5 hour journey down the river, with spots along the journey like Coon Bluff, Granite Reef, Phon D Sutton, Water Users, and Pebble Beach. A plethora of wildlife exists in this vast area, where you have a front seat view. Enjoy birds like bald eagles, falcons, hawks, egrets, herons, owls, robins, and countless other species, along with sea turtles, trout, and even bats. Other animal species like bighorn sheep, javelina, coyotes, raccoons and more have been known to make an appearance.

Salt River wild horsesNicole Underwood, NewsBreak

The horses by far are the most talked animal to experience, due to their obvious majestic nature and the thrill of seeing a herd, many who have colts in tow. The horses often enjoy grazing along the shoreline, but be mindful to give these beautiful beasts space - it is Arizona Law to not disturb the wild horses and to offer a minimum of 50 feet when you encounter them.

According to Visit Mesa’s website, there are as many as 500 of these incredible animals around the lower Salt River who come to enjoy the underwater foliage. Historically, the horses have been living in this reservation since the early 1900s and are governed by the efforts of a local nonprofit, Salt River Wild Horse Management Group. Many visitors have an opportunity to enjoy them in the early morning or at dusk, but it is not uncommon for them to linger in the early afternoon hours.

Get ready to have a fun float and make paddle boarding part of your summer plan this year.

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