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We live in a beautiful arid desert. Many of the vacation homes AVHR rents have pools and hot tubs which provide a private oasis for our guests. It may surprise you to know that we also have public water holes that include lakes and rivers where recreational water sports are widely available.
Even in our winter months it’s often sunny and warm enough to enjoy water activities. With water-friendly apparel and a hat, sunglasses, towels, binoculars, a camera and generous amounts of sunscreen you’re ready to enjoy adventures that include stunning scenery and wildlife sightings. To whet your appetite (I couldn’t resist) we’ve summarized a few of our favorite water holes and the variety of ways you might partake.
Salt River Tubing and Paddling
This one confused me when I first encountered it. Salt River as in salty water? Surprisingly, yes! To be sure, salt water rivers are an unusual occurrence. The Salt River in Arizona is salty due to the Tamarisk tree which lines its banks from beginning to end. The trees absorb salt from the ground and the salt is stored in the trees’ leaves. The leaves fall into the river and deliver salt to the water.
The Salt River is a beautiful river in Tonto National Forest (near Mesa) that is worth viewing from its banks or better yet aboard a tube, paddle board or kayak:
- Tubing the relatively calm rapids in the Lower Salt River is a favorite way to cool off with the locals and visitors. There are several outfits that supply tubes of all sizes (even large enough for a cooler) and other items you may want for an enjoyable float on mountain fresh water. Trips vary in length – some are long enough to fill an entire morning or afternoon.
- Paddling the Salt River is another popular activity and can be done on a paddle board or in a kayak. The Lower Salt is calm enough for beginners and offers exciting glimpses of wildlife such as wild mustang ponies munching grass or bald eagles soaring overhead. Other likely animal sightings include mule deer, big and small wading birds, fish and several different types of birds of prey. Guided tours are available for either sport. Increase your chances of seeing the horses by paddling in late spring or summer.
Also situated within the 3 million acres of the Tonto National Forest and surrounded by the Sonoran Desert is Saguaro Lake. This lake is well known for its canyon rims and shore-lined Saguaro Cactus. Sightseeing and sunset cruises are available; motor boating as well as sailing and rowing are also favorites. Fishing is popular here (more on fishing in a later blog) and with a little luck and skill you may hook a large bass or bluegill.
Tempe Town Lake
Located in the heart of the town of Tempe, this 2-mile-long creation is the result of damming the dry sections of the Salt River and adding water. Wind, electric, paddle and rowing powered boats and boards are your choices for a ride on this scenic lake. Boat and board rentals and classes are available for all levels. For a unique paddle experience and core strengthening, try paddleboard yoga.
The intricate and inviting paths for walking, jogging and biking along Tempe Lake’s borders make this destination a particular favorite with local residents and tourists. There are also several parks and habitat areas to visit while you’re here. The town of Tempe is definitely urban chic: restaurants and shopping are appealing possibilities when you’ve exhausted your splash.
Green Valley Park
Head to the mountains and the charming town of Payson for a family friendly park with fishing and paddling. There are 3 lakes for human powered (not gas-powered) boats. These picturesque lakes are perfect for canoeing and kayaking during the warmer months and you are almost guaranteed to view some exciting birds such as Bald Eagles and Great Blue Heron. Elk are often spotted in and around Payson – who knows, this might be your lucky day so don’t forget your binoculars and a camera. Hiking and biking trails circumnavigate the lakes if you prefer to view the scenery. When you’re done on the water you’ll want to explore Payson’s variety of charming restaurants, markets and local events.
Oasis Water Park
Looking for family fun and a splash of a different kind? Oasis Water Park in Phoenix might be just the thing for kids of all ages who long for that adrenaline rush. Water slides, a wave pool, jetted springs and a floating river are just a few of the more daring attractions. For those in search of tranquility or recovery there are private cabanas and a rejuvenating spa. A public golf course is readily available if you prefer to drop the kids off and practice your swing with your tried and true putting iron. The water park has a snack bar and is usually open early in April through the end of October.