Phoenix Rafting Tours

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It seems unlikely that an Arizona city like Phoenix would be a place where a person would go to find white water rafting, but the fact that it is a major transportation hub means that many people begin their Grand Canyon tours from this desert metropolis. While Grand Canyon rafting trips offer the most renowned river rafting Arizona has to offer, river runners can find a surprising variety of wild water rafting opportunities throughout the state including on the Salt River near Phoenix. In fact, the Salt River and many of the less-known Arizona rivers are ultimately tributaries of the great Colorado.

One Day Rafting – Phoenix Tours

Because of the vast distances and geographic complexity of travel in the Southwest, new visitors are sometimes perplexed as to why a Grand Canyon day trip requires such a commitment.

Can I raft the Grand Canyon in one day?

No, unfortunately you cannot. Because of the immensity of this natural wonder, Grand Canyon river rafting cannot really be completed in a single day, although curious Arizona river runners may find advertised opportunities for such a rafting tour.

Are there one day rafting tours near Phoenix?

Yes, there are one day rafting opportunities near Phoenix, but they won’t take you to the Grand Canyon. There is a Phoenix river where river rafting, river tubing, and other forms of water recreation can be enjoyed just minutes from the metro area.

The Salt River, in addition to providing agricultural irrigation, domestic potable water, and hydroelectric energy, is a long time local’s favorite summer playground. The gentle currents and open channels make possible a broad definition of what is required to be a “river raft”, with everything from inner tubes to professional white water rafts, to stand up paddle boards being used by residents and tourists escaping the heat on a summer weekend. Although the water rafting is rated Class I (easiest) on the Whitewater Difficulty scale, good safety practices are still important to ensure that the fun isn’t impacted by an unnecessary emergency. And on a guided rafting trip, you will have the best opportunity to avoid crowds, see the best parts of the river, and get to know a bit about the wildlife (maybe even see wild horses!).

Enjoy AOA’s Half Day Tour on the Lower Salt River!

The guided 1/2 day rafting tour is a scenic, relaxing float down the lower Salt River and perfect for groups and families.

Rafting tour group paddles across Arizona waterway
Group prepares for Arizona rafting day tour
Rafting tour group paddles across Arizona waterway

Where, When, and How to Go Rafting Near Phoenix

Where to Go

The Lower Salt River is located just east of greater Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs. Take the Red Mountain 202 freeway east to Power Road. Exit at Power and drive north. After 2.5 miles, Power Road becomes the Bush Highway, which travels along the side of the river and where there are several US Forest Service developed recreation sites for visitors to park and get to the water. AOA offers 1/2 day rafting tours on the Lower Salt River year-round and will pick you up from your hotel or residence to make it easier for you, or you have the option to meet at AOA headquarters in Scottsdale or near the river on the outskirts of Phoenix. If you have your own rafting or kayaking equipment, you will want to plan to have a shuttle driver help transport you from the location where you start paddling down the river to the location where you get off the river.

When to Go

You can raft sections of the Lower Salt River year-round and AOA offers tours all throughout the year. Any time of year offers great river rafting, but the water is most plentiful in the summer when more water is released from dams into the river. If you are interested in whitewater rafting on the Upper Salt River, the season is very limited. We recommend Mild 2 Wild rafting tours on the Upper Salt. On summer weekends, there is a company located at the Lower Salt river that rents inner tubes and offers shuttle bus rides to various access points on the river. This means of enjoying the river is popular with the weekend party crowd, but weekdays at the Salt River offer a much quieter visitor experience and the opportunity to see some of the numerous species of wildlife along the river.

Plan In Advance, Come Prepared

Summer in the desert, even on the water, should be taken seriously due to the extreme heat. Start the day early and end before the afternoon heat really builds, wear lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing, bring plenty of drinking water, sports hydration drinks, and salty snacks. And always be sure everyone in the party is wearing a life jacket at all times in the water. You may see occasional ants, bees, or other pests but there are not a lot of bugs in the desert. You should remember that desert vegetation is spiney, and can poke a hole in either a person or a raft! Cactus is not found immediately next to the water, but the area adjacent to the river is true Sonoran Desert habitat.