Upper Salt River Rafting Permit Information


Forest Service regulations require special recreation permits for private boaters taking river trips through the Salt River Canyon Wilderness, March 1 - May 15. 

Tonto National Forest program managers will accept only one application per person during the application period of November 15 – January 31 of each year.  A permit holder must be at least 18 years of age and qualified to organize a non-commercial, multiple-day trip down a class III-IV whitewater river. There is a $10 non-refundable deposit with the application. No applications will be accepted after the close of business on January 31. The permit application can be found here: Application.

Following the January random drawing for permits, successful applicants will be notified by email.  To secure the permit, successful applicants must send all requested information, along with an additional non-refundable fee of $125 at least 21 days prior to their reserved launch date.

The Salt River Canyon is a very remote and potentially dangerous place.  The river is a solid Class III-IV run, and is not recommended for novices and beginners.  Every person intending to run the Salt River is personally responsible for assessing river and weather conditions, and their ability to cope with these conditions.  All river-running involves a significant degree of risk.  It is the permit holder’s responsibility to ensure that the group has the proper skills and equipment to navigate the river safely. 

The permit holder must ensure that trip participants do not engage in commercial use or activity.  This is defined by 36 CFR 251.51:  any use or activity (a) where an entry or participation fee is charged, or (b) where the primary purpose is the sale of a good or service, and in either case, regardless of whether the use or activity is intended to produce a profit.  Normally, a trip is considered commercial if participants fail to share costs equally.

The permit holder must ensure that the group follows the following Wilderness Restrictions:

  • A boat tag must be attached to every watercraft used.
  • Group size is limited to no more than fifteen people.
  • Groups must have a Fire Pan in their possession.  Self-supporting kayak trips must have a Fire Blanket or Fire Pan in their possession.  All fires must be contained within these items.
  • Wood collection is limited to dead and down material only.  Cutting or stripping limbs from trees is strictly prohibited.
  • All trips must possess aportable toilet system to collect all solid human waste for proper disposal at an appropriate waste facility.  All solid human waste must be carried out of the river corridor.
  • Motorized boats and equipment are prohibited within the Salt River Canyon Wilderness.
  • Possession or transportation of any part of native plants is prohibited.
  • Littering is strictly prohibited.  Pack out all food remains, and trash (litter examples:  orange peels, seed shells, cigarette butts, etc.).
  • The U.S. Coast Guard recommends use of Type III or Type V Personal Flotation Device by each person, on all watercraft.

You can view a sketch-map of the area of the Upper Salt River Area.

You can also see a hydrograph showing water levels for several typical years.

 Applying for a cancellation date

The process for picking up a cancellation date for the Salt River has changed to an on-line system.

Here is how the cancellation system works:

  • Starting February 1, when someone cancels, or is forfeited for failing to pay within three weeks of their launch date, the date will be posted on the internet at: http://cancellations.saltriverpermits.com
  • Anyone who wants the permit for this date can check a box indicating their desire to take it.
  • 48 hours after the date is posted, a random drawing will be held among the interested parties who checked the box.
  • Successful and unsuccessful parties will be notified by email.
  • Permits that are unclaimed or unpaid for within 10 days of the permitted launch date will be available on the first come first serve webpage at:  http://lastminute.saltriverpermits.com/


Salt View



Recreation permits issued by the White Mountain Apache Tribe are required for whitewater boaters utilizing the portion of river flowing through the reservation.  Tribal jurisdiction applies to the approximately 30-mile stretch of river downstream from First Campground and the Highway 60 Bridge.  Whitewater boating is strictly prohibited by the Tribe through those sections of the canyon upstream of Apache Falls (one-quarter mile above Highway 60 bridge). 

For more information on permit costs and regulations call tribal officials at (928) 338-4385.