Iím sure this issue has been debated every year since 1994 when a certain raft guide took matters into his own hands and strapped 75 pounds of dynamite to a rock and turned a Class VI ledge drop keeper hole into a Class III+ slide that my mama could row through, no problem. But things have changed.
I just got off a high-water trip on the Salt, so the issue is fresh in my mind. As of a few years ago, Quartzite Falls no longer has a place for river-runners to scout, so I donít think there would be any way to portage it if that were still necessary (it would be very, very, very difficult). Every raft trip would probably have to take out at Gleason Flat, less than half way into the 52-mile run, missing the inner gorge, which has the best rapids and is easily the coolest section of the river.
Now, Iím not condoning the altering of Quartzite. (I have heard rumors about certain sharp rocks in the Poudre being hammered down in the off-season to protect commercial rafts during the summer, and that is definitely unacceptable.) But the truth is that raft trips through Upper Salt River Canyon would now be impossible if Quartzite remained in its natural state. The commercial outfitters would not be running customers through every spring, and there would be no private permit lottery every January.
Letís hypothetically say Quartzite remained it its original state. On one hand, you could argue that thatís the way the cookie crumbles. If the Upper Salt isnít passable and safe all the way through, itís what nature intended, and one less Western river to be trampled on by the ever-growing population. But on the other hand, we can now enjoy one more incredible natural resource, and learn more about and grow a deeper appreciation for our surroundings.
The guy who blew up Quartzite says he did it to save lives, but from what Iíve read he likely did it because he was tired of waiting in line for hours to portage the rapid. Either way, Iím sad that I never got to see the Falls in its natural state. But I am glad that I got to run it this year, and hopefully many years to come.
Salt River Arizona Whitewater Rafting Photo Gallery