Imagine peacefully floating down a slow moving river in an innertube. That is the experience you have when tubing the salt river. The Tonto National Forest allows this activity as a way to raise money to maintain the park.
On quiet days (non-holiday Monday through Friday), tubing is an extremely relaxing experience. I have seen wild horses and wild pigs on the banks of the river.
On holidays (especially labor day and 4th of July) tubing turns into spring break. The water is full of drunk people and girls are flashing. It is more of a college kids atmosphere.
A bus picks you up from the parking lot and takes you to the launch site. Another bus picks you up from the arrival site.
You can (and MUST) bring water. Actually you can bring anything you want to drive (no glass bottles) and people rent an extra tube, tie it to their tube and put a cooler in it. They sell coolers that fit right in a tube or devise your own. People also like to tie their tubes together, and bungie cords are a great way to do this.
When the temperature is under 100, the water is surprisingly cold. Also, some years the water level is so low that you are sometimes scraping the bottom. When I went in 1998 that happened a few times (and the water was freezing), however, when I went this year (2004), the water was deep and nice and warm.
Make sure you are wearing sunblock (sp 30+) and bring it with you and keep applying it. This is 3 hours in the hot, arizona sun.
If you enjoy the outdoors and want to float through the desert give tubing a try.
They only take cash.
Tubing down the river is a great way to enjoy a hot sunny day in Phoenix as you have the water to cool down. Unfortunately so many other people have the same idea. The tubes cost about 10 dollars to rent including the bus ride to the drop off point. Depending on the amount of water you will be dropped off at a near or far away stop. If the flow is slow like it was when we went you will be dropped off at the near point and it will take about 4 hrs to get back. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO REMEMBER TO DRINK PLENTY OF WATER AND TO WEAR LOTS AND LOTS OF SUNTAN LOTION.