Salt River Canyon Wilderness Permit

Area Status: Open

The Upper Salt River runs through the Salt River Canyon Wilderness, often referred to as Arizona's other Grand Canyon. While it lacks the size of the Grand Canyon, it certainly measures up in terms of outstanding, rugged geology and sheer scenic beauty. It is one of a few rivers to flow through the saguaro cactus forests of the Sonoran Desert, a truly exotic landscape.

A Tonto National Forest Upper Salt River boater permit is required to float the Salt River Canyon Wilderness from March 1st to May 15th annually. The Upper Salt River is a solid Class III-IV river and requires whitewater boating skills. As the water level drops the river becomes more technically difficult, and at low water a few of the rapids approach Class V. Because it is a free flowing river, it also has the potential to go to flood stage and become very dangerous in just hours.

The weather varies greatly in the Sonoran Desert, and it is not uncommon to find yourself wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and later wearing your winter weather gear. It is a good idea to check the weather before you leave for your trip, as there is no cell phone service in the canyon. Water levels vary from year to year, so it is wise to check on the snow pack in Arizona's White Mountains.

You must launch on your permitted day. Typically boaters launch on river right from First Campground on Apache Road 1 just down from where the Highway 60 Bridge crosses the Upper Salt River. The take-out for the permitted wilderness section is just downstream of the Highway 288 Bridge on river left, 52.3 miles downstream from First Campground. Most people with boater permits plan a four or five day river trip.

There are no trails in the Salt River Canyon Wilderness, but many of the side canyons are great hikes. The wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert can be magical in the spring, and just walking out into the desert from any of the camps can lead to fabulous scenic hiking.

There are several grocery stores in Globe, the nearest town to the Salt River Canyon Wilderness. There are four companies with permits to shuttle visitors to launch and take-out points along the Upper Salt. These include: Wilderness Aware Rafting (800) 231-2738, Mild to Wild Rafting (800) 567-6745, Salt River Rafting (800) 425-5253 and Canyon Rio Rafting (800) 637-4604. The shuttle takes approximately three hours round-trip if you do not stop in town.

If you have questions, you may call the River Manager, Don Sullivan, at (928) 402-6236.

At a Glance

Reservations: The most up to date information can be found at Boater Permit and Lottery Information: A boater permit is required for private boaters floating through the Salt River Canyon Wilderness, March 1 to May 15 . A lottery is used to allocate launches for this period and applications are accepted on this website from January 3 to January 31 . Only one lottery application is allowed, per person. There is a $16.00 lottery application fee and a $6.00 lottery transaction fee. Following the lottery, successful applicants have until February 20 to pay the $125 boater permit fee to secure the permit
Fees: $10 lottery fee due at time of lottery application. Additional $125.00 - Boater permit fee, due by February 20 for successful lottery applicants and for persons who have secured a first-come, first-served boater permit Administrative reservation fee is on top of these fees.
Permit Info: Tribal Permits: Permits issued by the White Mountain Apache Tribe are required for boaters on the portion of river flowing through the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, which includes the approximate 29-mile stretch of river downstream from First Campground and the Highway 60 Bridge put-in. 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, call tribal officials at (928) 338-4385.
Restrictions: Cancellations: You must cancel your boater permit 21 days or more prior to the launch date in order to receive a refund of the $125 boater permit fee. 
Water: None
Restroom: None
Passes: Permit Printing: You will be allowed to print your permit 14 days before your launch date.
Information Center: Refund and Cancellation Policy The lottery application fee is non-refundable. The $125.00 permit fee will be refunded to you if you cancel your permit 21 days or more prior to your assigned launch date. No refunds are issued for permits cancelled 20 days or less before the launch date. Change and Cancellation Policy To change the launch date, the permit holder must cancel their existing reservation and make a new reservation. To transfer the permit to another person, contact the River Manager, Don Sullivan, at (928) 402-6236

General Information

General Notes:

Permit holder must be at least 18 years of age.

Permit holder need not be the trip leader, but must be present on the trip and in possession of the signed permit.

Trip must launch only on the launch date specified on the permit.

Group size is limited to no more than fifteen people. Each person on the trip must carry a valid photo ID .

A fire pan with sides at least 3 inches high is required. All fires must be contained within a fire pan. Self-supporting kayak trips may substitute a fire blanket for a fire pan.

Wood collection is limited to dead and down material only.

A portable toilet system is required 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 equipment or boats are prohibited within the Salt River Canyon Wilderness.

Possession or transportation of native plants is prohibited.

Littering is strictly prohibited.

This is a non-commercial activity.Trip participants may not engage in commercial use or activity.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Boating - Non-Motorized

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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  Elevation : 
1,400 feet