One of the most refreshing recreations to be enjoyed by heat-weary Rim residents is less than an hour's drive away in the southern reaches of the Tonto National Forest.
Tubing or the hedonistic art of floating down the Salt River on inner tubes with liquid refreshment in hand has long been an inexpensive but thoroughly enjoyable way for Arizonans to lazily while away the hours of a weekend.
Among the hoards of locals who enjoy the cool and refreshing down river trips is the editorial staff of the Payson Roundup. The soothing float quickly alleviates the tensions created from much-dreaded deadline writing.
Along with the scribes, the trip is popular with many Rim country young people who bask in the revelry and camaraderie of the tubing experience.
Many Salt River tubers especially the flatlanders of Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert have elaborate tubing schemes in which they lug their own tubes, ice chests, custom-made stereos, to the starting point after leaving a second car at the ride's finish. That way, when the ride is over they simply drive back to the start point and retrieve their other automobile. Those who opt for the drive-and-park method say it saves money since you don't have to pay for tube rentals and shuttle service.
However, there is another way to tube and enjoy the river. It's the method Roundup reporters usually choose for their visits.
Under permit from the USDA and Tonto National Forest, Salt River Tubing & Recreation operates a shuttle bus and tube rental service near the river.
The company bills itself as the "Headquarters for Tubing Down the Salt."
The headquarters is located near the intersection of Bush Highway and Usery Pass and offers a variety of sizes of tubes including rentals that fit ice chests.
Also available for purchase at the headquarters are drinks, sunscreen, life vests, ice cream, hats, visors, T-shirts and many other items. Clean restrooms are also open to the public.
The shuttle bus service allows prospective tubers to chose among 1 1/2, 2 1/2 and four-hour trips. Five-hour trips are available when the river is flowing at its peak.
Tube rental and shuttle service is $10 per day per person. Company policy requires a deposit of one driver's license per five tubes rented. Remember to be careful with the tubes a lost one will cost you $10.
For those who take along their own tubes, the shuttle bus ride is $6.
For groups of 30 or more, Salt River Tubing offers group rates with 48-hour advance reservation notice. The weekday group rate is $8 per person. On the weekends, it's $9 per person.
Tube rentals and shuttle service begin at 9 a.m. each morning. The last daily tube rental is 4 p.m. and the final bus pickup on the river is at 6:30 p.m.
Before planning any tubing trip, there are a few precautions that should be taken to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.
First, life vests are recommended for children and all non-swimmers.
Also, basketball shoes or other foot wear should be worn to protect the feet from the rocky river bottom and shores.
Never take any glass container they're not allowed at the river.
Since Styrofoam coolers can break apart, float down river and eventually do harm to the environment, they are not recommended. Also, many visitors tie their tubes together but the practice is not recommended by Salt River Tubing officials for safety reasons.
Call Salt River Tubing at 480-984-3305 for more information or visit their Web site at www.saltrivertubing.com.