This is my favorite area near home. Salt River Photography is a great way to start a morning or end a night. You can catch sunrises and sunsets here, so that’s a perk to the area.

During monsoon season, you can shoot during the days if the clouds present themselves over the deserts. I have gotten some of my most dramatic shots of the landscapes in the area during the mid-day, as long as the moody clouds were present.

My favorite time to hit the area is always sunrise. I appreciate the quietness of the area before too many people arrive. I also enjoy spotting birds as the light enters the day, and you can often find birds (and horses) near the water.


For photography, this part of the Salt River offers epic sunrises, and this location is just about the second-most premiere spot in the Phoenix area for checking bird species off your birding list!

It’s also the most popular area for kayaking and paddle boards. Nothing beats a morning on the river here if you like to get out on the water. You can venture onto either side of the parking lot once there. One direction leads to the dam you can see from the parking lot, and the other leads away near the river. Sometimes, this trail has lots of shrubbery to work through.


Coon Bluff is a great area to hit if you don’t have much time in the area and can only choose one. The reason for that is because it has a little bit of everything. Birding will be abundant as it is probably the second most popular spot in the area for a species list if you enjoy that.

You have a fair chance to see some wild horses along the road. And, of course, if you want to see, fish, or enjoy the river, you have easy access to this parking lot and area.

This is also a popular camping area, allowed during cooler times of the year. Read about camping in the Coon Bluff area.

After parking, you can hike up the small mountainous area and get a great view with some elevation from the river area. Up high, it also offers a pleasant view of Four Peaks. The other option is to head towards the water and all the surrounding trees, which provide lots of trails and much to see.


For some Salt River Photography, this location has some incredible mountain views right across the river. It’s a great location to hit with clouds just before or after a storm. I’ve also had good luck spotting river otters here!

If you get lucky, you can see river otters in the water here, which seems to be a common spot for them. You will want to park near the back of the parking lot, as the main part of the lot is used for people enjoying the river for tubing and kayaking. It’s the most popular launch area. Tubing is only offered from late May to September, so you do not need to be concerned with this and the parking in the other parts of the year.


And if you’re in the area and have time, you might as well hit Saguaro Lake! This is another go-to spot in the area for me if there is potential for sunrise colors. You can grab a great sunrise from the lake’s main entrance, or you can go back behind to Butcher Jones area and look for birds, wild horses, and a great view of the Lake.


Salt River Photography can present different and unique situations for the four seasons.

  • Spring: This is a great season for birds in the area and catching wildflowers. You can typically catch wildflowers from late February to April. I would say March is prime time for flowers in the area.
  • Summer: The mighty monsoons will roll through as the season starts mid-June for your Salt River Photography. Many of my shoots in the summer are on the fly; I just get up and go. I keep an eye on the weather. The best time is just after a storm passes, and you get the wicked clouds breaking and sometimes plenty of rainbows.
  • Fall: Fall is a great time at the Salt River Photography. Everything seems calm in the area, and it’s a nice feeling. I’ve gotten some great reflections off the river in October and November. There always seem to be picturesque clouds in landscapes. This is also when I have had the best luck photographing the Arizona wild horses.
  • Winter: It can be chilly in the mornings here, but you won’t find many people around, especially early. And this is great for people looking for wildlife. We might be good for a winter storm or two, and it’s nice to come out here for that as well.


This last part is essential. You need a pass if you are stopping anywhere inside the Tonto National Forest and these day-use areas. You can read about these $8 passes here. I use the America the Beautiful National Parks annual pass as it covers this area, too, so that’s a nice perk! I hope you can get out here for some Salt River Photography! Learn more about me.

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