Know Before You Go: Salt River Tubing in Arizona

Summer in Arizona usually gets blazing hot with unbearable temperatures. Many Arizonans find a way to beat the heat with a visit to the local Salt River and it becomes a tradition. If swimming in the pool in your backyard is not ideal enough to give you the desert feels, floating/tubing down Salt River may be more of your taste for adventure.

Every summer, starting in April or May, the Salt River Tubing company opens up to start allowing people to rent tubes and to float down the Lower Salt River in Mesa, Arizona. You can float up to a total of six hours in the river, depending on where you want to stop, where you started off, and the velocity level of how the water is flowing.

How much does it cost to go tubing in the Salt River?

Now, that’s a fast way to get your tan on. The price to rent a tube from Salt River Tubing is usually $17 and that’s with tax and the permit to ride their shuttle buses. In able to rent a tube, a valid driver’s license must be presented and held by the workers to secure it as a deposit for every five tubes that are rented. If you want to save from the tube rental, you have the choice to bring your own tube and just opt to get a bus pass. You also have the option to park in your own car if you get a permit ahead to park in Tonto National Forest.

What’s tubing down there like?

Once you launch off to float on the river with your tube after being dropped off, you’ll get in contact with the cooling sensation of the Salt River. You’ll see rugged canyon views from beginning to middle of your float trip, pass or possibly get stuck by some green Palo Verde trees, or make your way through not-too-heavy rapids.

You can spend up to 6 hours in this river and see wild horses.

But, one of the best views to see down the Salt River? Wild horses! These wild horses call the Salt River home but don’t fear them. Seeing humans almost every other day floating through the river and being used to that, they are occupied with using the river as a source for their drinks and sometimes, you can catch a glimpse of them running around neighing with their herd.

Photo credit: Andrew Pielage of Phoenix New Times

Some things to be careful about

Swimming in the Salt River is something to be cautious about. It’s not the ideal place to swim in nor the safest. There are a few reports of bacteria floating around the river and even one person on Yelp saying someone they know who worked there was infected with MRSA. It’s not clear as to what’s in the river, but it’s better to remain safe than sorry, and by doing so is avoiding swimming underneath the water or dunking yourself in it.

Another is if you have a wound already, it’s advisable not to go in the river at all. If you find yourself having fun with your friends on the river, don’t push someone off their tube or try to flip it over, which can cause someone to accidentally gulp in that water (yuck!) and who knows, even worst.

It gets so hot, uncomfortably hot in dry weather, especially while you’re tubing with a lot of the sun to hit you directly. You should drink lots of water before you start tubing and 1-2 bottles of water per hour while you are tubing to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion. Don’t forget to also wear your protective SPF sunscreen (with a minimum of SPF 30). 

All non-swimmers, inexperienced swimmers, and all children must wear a life vest. More safety tips for tubing the Salt River can be found here.

What you can bring with you while tubing in the river

Besides the eligibility to bring your own tube to the river, there are a few things you can bring to add to your tubing experience. Firstly, glass containers are not allowed in the Salt River at all.

Many people bring a waterproof Bluetooth speaker to play music while tubing, some drinks (although the Salt River tubing recommends alcohol/drugs do not mix in the Salt River), and snacks (as long as you avoid littering them).

If you plan to put your feet under your tube to feel the coolness on your legs (like I’m doing in the pic below), make sure to wear water shoes to avoid the roughness feeling under your feet. Also, some parts of the river do get shallow, so watch out for that while you have your feet hanging loose below the tube.

Tubing by the gorgeous cliff walls you can find in the Salt River

If you plan on bringing your GoPro to take the best photos and videos during the river, make sure to have a floatable back attached to it in case you drop your GoPro on the water so you have little to no chance of losing it.

Salt River tubing with two of my friends. Photo taken on my GoPro.

Most importantly, bring a positive and fun attitude to your tubing experience! It’s a one-of-a-kind water experience to do around Phoenix, Arizona. Have fun!

Recommended things to pick up before you go tubing


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