Unfortunately, camping along the Lower Salt River is generally prohibited.
There is one exception, though it comes with a number of restrictions. Camping is permitted in designated sites in Coon Bluff, but only between October 1st and March 31st. Further, camping between those months is limited to weekends only (defined as Friday sunrise through Sunday sunset), with a few additional days added for holiday weekends:
- Thanksgiving weekend – from sunrise Wednesday before Thanksgiving to sunset the Sunday after Thanksgiving)
- When a Federal holiday falls on a Monday (applies only to Columbus Day, Martin Luther King, Jr Day, and President’s Day) – from sunrise Friday to sunset Monday
- When a Federal holiday falls on a Friday (applies to Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) – from sunrise Thursday to sunset Sunday
Because camping is only allowed in the kayaking offseason, don’t expect to camp along the Lower Salt River and paddle directly from your campsite. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t camp anywhere near the Salt River; indeed, there are a number of camping options.
Local developed campground options
Located just a handful of miles down the road at Usery Mountain Regional Park is a number of developed campgrounds; these are the closest and most convenient for kayaking the Salt River. You’ll also find developed campgrounds at Lost Dutchman State Park and McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Please note that these options each charge additional entrance fees.
There are also more campgrounds in other Maricopa County Regional Parks that ring metro Phoenix, as well as additional options in Tonto National Forest and surrounding BLM lands. There are also a large number of private RV-style campgrounds scattered around metro Phoenix.
You can boat in and camp in designated sites on Saguaro Lake at Bagley Flat Campground and Boat Dock and on Canyon Lake at The Point Boat Dock, Campground and Picnic Area. Note that reservations are not accepted at either campground, and you’ll often be competing with campers with motorboats for sites. Tonto or America the Beautiful passes are required for parking.
There are also a number of shoreline camping options—including developed, designated, and dispersed campsites—available at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, around Barlett Lake and Horseshoe Reservoir, and around Apache Lake and Roosevelt Lake.
OHV drive-in dispersed camping
With a six-month permit, you can access the Bulldog Canyon OHV Area just south of the Salt River, where you can disperse camp for free. Please be mindful of the restrictions that govern this area.
Other dispersed camping options
There are countless dispersed campsites located throughout the Tonto National Forest and BLM lands around the Valley, including a number of popular backpacking areas. Check local guidebooks, hiking and camping apps, and with local land managers for more detailed information.
Saguaro Lake Ranch cottages and cabins
If you’re not interested in camping, you can rent a rustic cabin or cottage from Saguaro Lake Ranch, which also offers its own kayaking launch site.
A reminder about fire restrictions
Keep in mind that summer kayaking season often overlaps with fire restriction season, so you’ll likely be limited in campfires until things green up from monsoon season.