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This last weekend we went on one of the most fun adventures we’ve ever done in Arizona with our partners at Wilderness Aware Rafting. We went on a 2-day Expedition whitewater rafting and camping on the Salt River outside of Globe, AZ in the Salt River Canyon Wilderness area. We had an incredible time (even my teenager who wasn’t too sure about the whole weekend thing). I thought I’d share our entire weekend experience here. 

Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys

If you’ve grown up in or around Arizona you may have heard of tubing down the Salt River but did you know that you can raft on the Salt River? In fact, it has some pretty awesome rapids along with incredible scenery changes since the river drops an average of 25 feet per mile for over 50 miles. Wilderness Aware Rafting has several trip options on the Salt River but we wanted the full camping experience (that could fit into the boys’ school schedule) so we went with the 2-day Expedition.

The spot to meet up and start the adventure with Wilderness Aware Rafting is located about 45 minutes outside of Globe, AZ so we opted to stay in Globe the evening before. We got to the meetup spot around 8/8:30 am and got started right away filling our dry bags with the sleeping bag and mat we rented at a reasonable price, and our dry clothes/camp necessities.Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

The staff was welcoming from the start and helped us with anything we needed. They even had a box FULL of quick dry layers to borrow so we could add a few extra layers on top of the provided wetsuit and boots, just in case we thought we’d be cold on the river. We were also fitted for PFDs (personal floatation devices) and helmets. Once we were all packed up and ready to go we hopped into a van and drove down to “2nd Camp” where we’d take off on our adventure.Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

Before loading up the rafts, we talked safety with our river guide Glenn (who’s been a river guide for OVER 40 YEARS!). They were thorough in telling us just what to do in any situation. We quickly decided that our most important job, and the way to have the best time, was to listen to our River Guide Glenn and just do exactly what he said.

Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys

After the safety talk we loaded up into the raft and we were off! I was excited, and a little nervous to experience my first rapid and Glenn told us that the first one had some of the biggest waves on the river. We paddled when (and how) he told us to and I LAUGHED SO HARD through our entire first set of rapids. We experienced waves, walls of (cold) water, and that adventure adrenaline you can only get in nature. We were hooked!

Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys
Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys
Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys
Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys
Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys
Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys
Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys

After several different types of rapids up to Class IV we stopped along the river for lunch. It was the perfect time to dry out some of our layers and explore the gorgeous terrain. We had already paddled from Oak and Juniper trees to Saguaros. Lunch was great and because they had asked about special dietary needs beforehand they made sure there was plenty of gluten-free options for me. Soon it was time to load back up into our raft and paddle the rest of the way to our camp for the night.

Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

We got to see some incredible rock formations and even the sacred salt banks. During the day the boys quickly developed favorite rapids (Eye of the Needle and Black Rock were two of their favorites). The other raft with us got to put their safety talk to use when their raft flipped! We were able to help 2 men onto our raft until theirs was turned over and they were able to get back in. The whole thing happened so fast and everyone worked together to get everyone back in place. It actually was really cool to see everyone work together and everyone ended up being super excited to have a story to tell around the campfire.Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys

When we arrived at our campsite (only accessible by river) we had rafted over 20 miles! We helped unload the rafts and then got to work picking a site for our tent, setting up, and changing into our dry camp clothes. Our guides were already busy starting a fire, setting up the “kitchen” and getting everything ready for dinner. We were definitely spoiled!Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

Dinner was fantastic (and again, made sure to be gluten-free). I have no idea how they did it but our guides even made up an entire pineapple upside down cake right there at camp! It was such a great change of pace to sit around a campfire, eating a hot meal, and chatting with each other without the distraction of electronics. I definitely need to do this more often. Another benefit of being “off the grid” is that the stars are absolutely incredible. Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

The boys were in one tent and Jared and I in another. The night we stayed was a cold night, but the tent and sleeping bag we rented were just right and kept us all warm. Once morning came and we knew the coffee was ready it was time to start prepping for the day. I admit, because of how cold it got overnight I was really worried about putting my wetsuit back on. I was afraid it was going to be ice cold and wet since it was still early March and around 33F that morning. The sun did it’s job though and it was totally comfortable gearing back up for the day.Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

Breakfast was great and while our guides cleaned up we got to work taking down our tents and filling our dry bags back up with our belongings. Then it was time to head back out for the day starting with rapids right off the bat! We were more excited since we knew how much fun they were and that all we had to do was listen to Glenn.

Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys
Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys
Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting
Photo Credit: Brent Denys

Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

Arizona did not disappoint this second day either. We saw deer and even a bald eagle! Our lunch stop came at just the right time once again and it was nice to walk around and explore a bit before hitting the river once again. Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

Sadly, our 2-day expedition came to an end and we had to head back to our car once the Salt River met up with Roosevelt Lake. Back at our car we unpacked our dry bags, thanked our incredible trip guides, and loaded up the car to head back home to Phoenix. We can’t say enough great things about the knowledge, direction, service, and company of all the guides, and loved hearing how great Wilderness Aware Rafting is to work for. They had actually just completed their first interview trip of the season and we got to hear how the hiring process goes and what makes Wilderness Aware Rafting so different and great to work for.Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

We highly recommend checking them out if you are interested in whitewater rafting in Arizona. They have a variety of trip options that are great for kids starting at ages 8 and up! Day trips are a great choice if you aren’t sure about an overnight or want to “get your feet wet” with rafting before embarking on a longer adventure. Arizona family adventure travel: whitewater rafting on the Salt River with Wilderness Aware Rafting

 

Author

Allison Waken is the founder, writer, photographer, and content creator of All for the Memories and All for the Boys.

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