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Salt River Wilderness - Gleason to the Bridge - Labor Day 2017 - Allan Watts TR

On Labor Day weekend, 2017, Michelle, Mike, Sam Schoch, and I did a 33-mile three-day low-water trip through the Upper Salt River Wilderness from Gleason Flat to Roosevelt Lake in inflatable kayaks at decreasing flow from 200 to 154 cfs on the Roosevelt gauge. There was still a 10-20 percent chance of rain in parts of the watershed like the towns of Cibecue and Whiteriver but it was down to zero to ten percent in Globe by the time we launched and the river had generally been dropping over the last few weeks from the monsoon season and we had less flow than the river had been at since the middle of July or so when the monsoon began. There were no bumps in flow either on the Salt or the tributaries just before or while we were on the river. The flow was below 200 cfs by 6 am on Saturday at Roosevelt and was down to 187 by noon. Since it takes some time for a change in flow at Gleason to reach Roosevelt, we probably had around 200 cfs when we launched at noon on Saturday and it probably did not drop below 190 by the time we passed Black Rock. Cherry creek was below 5 cfs, and there is not a lot of other inflow between Gleason and Roosevelt that I am aware of. Coon Creek, for example, was dry when we passed it on day 2. On day 2 (Sunday), the flow at Roosevelt was a steady 170 cfs from 1:15 am to 1:45 and did not drop below 162 cfs until 8:30 pm, so we probably had 165 cfs when we did the harder rapids above Cherry Creek and it probably did not drop below 162 by the time we took out. On Monday, the flow at Roosevelt was a steady 154 cfs from 12:30 am to 4:15 pm. I did not observe a change in river level either night, however. The gauge at Chrysotile did not seem to be working right before or during this trip. Only intermittent readings had been posted and it read a steady 236 cfs for about a week while all of the other gauges were dropping, so I did not trust it at all by the time we launched. But I had no reason to doubt the Roosevelt gauge.

We were originally going to take just two vehicles but Michelle’s and my stuff filled the back of the 4runner to above the tops of the back seats and Mike volunteered to drive as well. Mike’s full-size Power Wagon would have been perfect for all four of us but it was still not fixed from the transfer case exploding on the way to the Gila earlier this summer. We had plenty of room, however, with three vehicles, and that decreased our chances of being stranded on the dirt road. Michelle and I left home at 7 am, got gas in Superior, and met Mike and Sam at the boater parking at Roosevelt where they had already moved Sam’s stuff into Mike’s Rubicon and we left Sam’s FJ Cruiser there. We took the Cherry Creek road, road 96, and Indian road 3 or 8 (shown but not identified on Google Maps) to Gleason Flat. Michelle and I saw a heard of javelina at Cherry Creek. Mike took over the lead and said there was one set of tracks since the last rain on 96 but none after we turned right from that to go down to Gleason. We had to push through the reeds to get to the water to launch at river mile 19.6 and there was no evidence that anyone had launched there recently. We launched at about noon, paddled for less than an hour, and then stopped for lunch at a shady but muddy shore on the left. I sank in the mud getting out, crawled on my knees to avoid sinking in the mud, ate lunch with muddy pants, and then washed off when we launched. The water was red and opaque but might have been a little less silt-laden than when Michelle and I did our day run on the Upper Salt earlier this summer. The forecast was for about 103 in Phoenix and humid and high 90’s in Globe and I was hot by the time we launched and swam after lunch to keep cool as well as to wash off the mud. The water temperature was comfortable.