Salt River - is it worth the drive from Seattle? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 1 Week Ago   #1
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 122
Salt River - is it worth the drive from Seattle?

Opinions needed. A buddy of mine scored a Salt permit for early April and invited me along. Neither of us (or anyone in our crew) has run the Salt. This would be a pretty epic drive from Seattle (roughly 24 hours). While I love the prospect of escaping the NW gloom, camping among Saguaros and seeing a new river, this would definitely test the patience of my family since I already hope to hit the Owyhee and Rogue this Spring (and likely would have to cancel one or both if I did this).

Talk me into or out of this trip


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Old 1 Week Ago   #2's Avatar
lafayette or Grand Lake, Depends on mood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1961
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 1,109
Invite me and my rafting buddy and go. It is like nothing else you have probably been on.
Just check the flow before leaving town and pack light and take small rigs if you have any.
Time is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life on or off the river. is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 1 Week Ago   #3
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 233
At the end of you’re life, you’ll be glad you stayed home and watched Oprah.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #4
Electric-Mayhem's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1,366
Unless some last minute weather happens...this year is gonna be a hit or miss on when it actually happens. April could be great...or it might be too late depending on when the melt starts. I think for it to be decent this year its gonna take a rain event flushing the snow out of the mountains...which will also make it a short season.

All that said... the Salt is probably in my top three favorite runs I've done with the Grand Canyon and Middle Fork being the other two of the top three (haven't run the Selway or any PNW/West Coast rivers like the Rogue...but its on the list). Access is great, shuttle is easy, and it has a very unique feel to it.

Its certainly a haul from Seattle though. I had the "pleasure" of doing a similar drive up there and back a few months ago to pick up my Dory and its certainly a long trip and it took it out of me. I did it basically round trip back to back having a river trip in between certainly makes it better. Its kind of too bad you don't have a permit at the beginning of the permit season, as the Salt is a great river to do back to back trips on.

I found that its a great trip to combine with a Grand Canyon trip. I did it that way in 2017 and it was a great way to wash the cobwebs off and warm up for the Grand. That was with a good water year and a big snow/rain storm that had come through and raised the levels to about 6000cfs. We put on a few days after that storm came through and it was probably ~3500cfs and dropping as we went down.

So... to me...I think yes is the answer... its a great early season trip and worth the drive. 1000cfs or higher and basically anything will make it down. Below that...small craft are better but I've heard stories of people still taking a 14' boat down. I had a buddy who took a little cataraft down at 300-400cfs and he said he thought it was still too big till he saw a group with a fully loaded 14'er that had managed to get down somehow.

I'm not sure what is available to rent in the area...but I'd be awfully tempted to fly to Phoenix and borrow or rent a boat. Kinda tempted to do it that way even from Denver...which is about a 12 hour drive. Its only 2 hours away from pretty doable. You could fly to Flagstaff and rent a boat there too...about 4 hours from there to the river. Harder and more expensive to fly there though...tiny airport.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #5
bcpnick's Avatar
Salt Lake City, Utah
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 207
I say definitely worth it. The Salt is probably my favorite run so far, even up against the likes of Middle Fork, Yampa, Lodore, Cataract, Westwater, Deso, and the Tat-Alsek. I am particularly fond of the desert though, and rafting amongst the saguaros and awesome geologic features is uniquely special.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #6
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 122
Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. I am really tempted to stay at home and just watch Oprah as Griz recommends but man if flows are favorable it sure will be tempting!
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Old 1 Week Ago   #7
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 287
Is it worth it? Well depends on wheather or not I'm in invited....

Seriously though it's epic.

I agree it might be worth flying in and renting gear.

If you invite friends from say Durango perhaps they could grab some rental boats for you on the way down. 😉
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Old 1 Week Ago   #8
Apache Junction, Arizona
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 225
I would say its worth the trip but early March it is much more likely to be flowing then in April. Very hit and miss that late.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #9
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,775
Over the years I have been blessed to run many of the classic rivers in the US.

Multiple trips down the Salt. Salt is one of the Classic Runs in my opinion.

I have always done Salt floats when the weather was warm days cold nights. Hitting the Salt with good CFS and weather is always hit or miss. If you get lucky go !!

Camps are really good, rapids interesting and while the Salt is different from most other rafting rivers, the Salt is in the top runs in the US for me.

I have run the Salt in kayaks and 14 ft Aire self bailers and every run was super fun.

Living in the Tulsa OK area, I am used to long drives to and from the good runs.

The Salt is worth the drive no matter the time it takes.

I have run rivers like the Rogue and others in that area. If you have river buds who can help you get gear, Flying to / from the Salt (Phoenix maybe) makes for a even better time.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #10
codycleve's Avatar
salmon, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,151
I made the drive last march from Salmon, Idaho and it was well worth the drive. 2 days getting there and 2 days getting back. we used moab as our midway point. I had friends come from grants pass. I have a lot of the classics in my back yard and loved it.. It was snowing when I left so it helped me escape winter i bit early. it's a very cool river and if the water is there go.
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