Kayaking tours are the perfect way to cool off on a warm day in Arizona’s desert. Spend a relaxing morning paddling along lush green riverbanks and towering red cliffs, keep alert for sightings of wild horses and bald eagles. Guided kayak tours on the Salt River are scheduled to avoid the crowds and are perfectly suited to take advantage of all the river has to offer, including refreshingly cool swimming and a unique perspective on the desert.
Price: Starting at $150 per person. Book 4 or more participants and get 15% off your group!
Your kayak tour…
Pilot your own craft down a beginner‐friendly river with AOA’s guided kayak tours on the Lower Salt River just outside Phoenix and Scottsdale. Our inflatable kayaks are stable and easy to maneuver, creating the perfect platform for splashing, relaxing, or wildlife viewing. The river is an indispensable oasis in the vast Sonoran Desert, attracting a multitude of birds and wildlife – we often see wild horses and bald eagles during our tour! Take time to appreciate the surrounding mountain peaks, giant saguaro cactus, and flora unique to the river ecosystem. Your guides are always available to teach you the natural history of the area and give you expert paddling instruction.
All of our regularly scheduled kayak tours take place on the Lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest. We also offer guided trips on the Lower Verde River. Both rivers are scenic, Class I (the easiest rating on the international river difficulty scale) and provide some of the best opportunities for viewing wildlife and bird watching in the Southwest. We have a number of put‐in/take‐out locations and select our launch locations based on the current water flow to provide you with the best experience. Water temperatures vary from the 60s in the winter to low 80s in the summer months. Swimming is possible year‐round but it can be a bit bracing in January!
$150 per person – meet at AOA Office or Mesa location
Morning and afternoon tours available.
Children must meet a minimum of 35 pounds to be safely fitted in our life jackets. All minors must be accompanied by an adult.
*Single Kayaks: additional $10 per person
Turn any guided tour into a full-day adventure with lunch! See our full-day tours page.
What do you need to bring?
Clothing – Comfortable, weather appropriate athletic clothing – shorts and a t-shirt, bathing suit, on cooler mornings long sleeves are advised. We recommend bringing a dry change of clothes for after your river trip.
Water shoes/sandals/old sneakers – These must stay on your feet at all times – sport sandals only please. Flip flops or bare feet are not allowed.
Sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, lip balm, medications, hat, etc.
Reservation, Payments, and Cancellation
Advance reservations are required and can only be confirmed with receipt of guest contact information and a valid credit card.
Final payment is due in advance of the tour. Guide gratuities are optional, but are appreciated.
There is no charge for cancellations made more than 48 hours before departure time. Cancellations made less than 48 hours from departure time will be charged in full.
The Desert and its Rivers
Rivers play a very important role in the complex environment of North America’s Sonoran Desert. Water is scarce in the desert and plants and animals have adapted to the harsh conditions that come with high summer temperatures and low average rainfall. Along the river corridors are delicate and unique ecosystems known as riparian zones. In these areas, lush trees such as desert willow and cottonwood take the place of the hardy saguaro cactus. The soft greenery and plentiful water attract many the animals who make their homes here including beavers, otters, loons, eagles, turkey vultures and on Arizona’s lower Salt River, even wild horses.
The Salt River flows from its headwaters in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona and rushes along through the high elevations until it winds its way to the lower arid desert outside of Phoenix. Here the riparian ecosystem created by the mellow flow of the Salt is an indispensable oasis, home to many plant and animal species, and a perennial slash of green across the dry brown of the surrounding landscape.
Over four million people who live in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area depend on the Salt River for energy generated by a series of hydroelectric dams managed by the Salt River Project. The reservoirs created by those dams are in turn a source of life for the creatures that live in the surrounding environment, mule deer, wildcats, desert cottontail rabbits, and many others. The flow of water past the dams varies depending on the season and recent precipitation within the Salt River watershed. On AOA’s guided river tours our expert guides will share their stories of the river and educate you about the delicate ecosystems that occur within riparian zones in the desert. Keep alert when floating along, rafting and kayaking on the Salt River are wonderful ways to see the Sonoran desert from a new perspective.
Temperature and Climate:
AOA operates guided Salt River tours under permit by the Tonto National Forest.