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By Claire Spinner | June 8, 2021

Salt River Tubing gives tubers the chance to celebrate their inner pirate and sail the “seven seas” without leaving Arizona.

Salt River Pirates, as part of USDA’s National Get Outdoors Day, is set for Saturday, June 12. It’s one of many themed events throughout Salt River Tubing’s season.

Dressing up as a pirate is optional, and anyone can journey through the Tonto National Forest.

“We’ll all be dressed up in our best pirate costumes,” says Lynda Breault, Salt River Tubing’s vice president and director of marketing and human resources.

“We’re going to decorate our shuttle buses and really try to provide a carnival atmosphere to promote coming out and enjoying the river in an entirely new way. And how perfect is it to be able to be a pirate as you float across the river?”

The lower Salt River was charted by Breault’s husband, Henry, 42 years ago. After noticing that people often came to the river to tube but rarely respected the land, Henry lobbied for a national permit so he could transform it.

“He had parking lots and bathrooms put in and just made it so easy to go tubing without disturbing the environment,” she says.

“We’ve seen a lot of difference in the river just from pushing back parking from the river’s edge and encouraging litter prevention.”

Salt River Tubing has been granted the “Take Pride in America” Award, which encourages caring for public lands, four times since it opened in 1981. Breault says she and her husband are proud for their anti-littering campaigns.

“Our mission statement is to promote the protection and conservation of the natural resources and environment of the lower Salt River recreation area, as well as encouraging fun,” Breault says.

Salt River Tubing operates on nearly 25 acres of land, and the tubing path stretches over 5 miles, making it a socially distanced option for escaping the heat. With more events happening later in the month and during July — like Superhero Splashdown on June 26 and Spooktacular Halloween on July 17 — there are plenty of opportunities for a tubing experience.

“We love to say that it is Arizona’s floating beach blast. With our events, we want to make sure it feels like there’s a great celebration going on.”

Salt River Tubing operates throughout the summer, and floating along the river has been an Arizonan tradition for nearly 50 years.

“We feel like, when you are floating on the lower Salt River, it’s like floating in the mini Grand Canyon of Tonto National Forest,” Breault says. “It’s just phenomenal. You get to lay back in a tube and have a leisurely float and enjoy all of the wildlife. It truly is an Arizona tradition.”

While tubers are still required to wear masks during tube rentals and returns, as well as shuttle buses, Breault says she is hoping to re-evaluate safety protocols before Salt River Pirates.

“We really are hoping that things will be back to normal this summer,” she says. “If we aren’t seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases a few weeks after Memorial Day, it would be a really great sign for us and potentially a reason to loosen our mask requirements.”

For those who are still weary of being in communal spaces, Salt River Tubing provides open air and acres of space, making it one of the safest options for outdoor activities this summer, Breault says.

She expects people to be eager to get out on the river and hopes to see new faces this summer.

“It’s just a great place to bring your family and friends, especially because it’s naturally socially distanced. And it’s the perfect summer activity, because even when it’s 110 or 120 degrees outside, the water is still cool and refreshing and clean,” Breault  says. “It’s tubing time, and I can’t think of a better way to cool off and just float.”

Salt River Tubing

9200 N. Bush Highway, Mesa