Salt River Float – Party Barge Style

Not that I’m complaining, but one of the problems with going to China in June is that you miss out on all the fun summer activities with your friends. My favorite tradition is the Salt River Float in Mesa, Arizona. A group of fifteen of us caravan from California and Las Vegas, stay in the cheapest motel we can find, and float the Salt.


This is not a family activity. Picture a frat party on a river, add ten (or so) years to the revelers, and you’ve got yourself a river float. Here are some tips for a happy float.


You need to bring:

  • A cute suit and sunscreen
  • Water shoes. Yes, flip flops look nicer (by a lot) but they will drown. If anyone wants to open up a used flip flop shop, a decade worth of inventory can be found on the bottom of the Salt River.
  • A bed sheet that you’re not attached to. This is to go over your inner tube, which, being black, gets very hot. The bed sheet will never smell good again, so throw it away after you’re done floating (or donate it to an animal shelter).
  • A cooler full of drinks and snacks. Although I’m not going to publically recommend drinking on a river, SOME people might fill this cooler with alcoholic beverages. Just make sure that all of your drinks are in non-glass containers. Your cooler will be checked. You can find Corona beer in aluminum cans if you’re so inclined.
  • Rope and scissors. The rope to tie your tubes together and the scissors to cut them apart when you’re finished.
  • Money (cash only) and ID to rent a tube. Tubes are $15. Remember you also need to rent an inner tube for your cooler. The Salt River Float guys take your ID as insurance that you will return your inner tube unscathed. Your group will need at least one ID for every five tubes.
  • Fun stuff! Marshmallows and Mardi Gras beads are fun to throw at other floaters. Someone usually has a huge speaker blasting Sublime, so if you have a cooler with speakers it’s an excellent time to bust that out.  

Some things to know:

  • To get to the Salt River, take highway 202 to the northeast corner of Phoenix/Mesa. Take the Power Road/Bush Highway exit north. About seven miles up this road you’ll see a four way stop. Turn left towards the huge parking lot and sign for Salt River Float. You can’t miss it.   
  • The Salt River tube rentals begin at 9am, with the last rental at 3. Your tube must be returned by 6:30.   
  • A bus will take you to your river put-in spot. The ride is free with your tube rental. If you brought your own inner tube you have to cough up $12 for the ride, although I think sneaking on would be pretty easy, especially during the busy weekends.  
  • There are cops all up and down Power Road on weekends, so be careful driving back home.   
  • Check out the Salt River Tubing website for deals and special events.