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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Salt River safety on Fourth is officials’ priority

    Thousands of people will flock to Salt River Tubing and Recreation of Mesa for their 14th annual “”Bag It for Bucks”” Take Pride in America Event this Fourth of July weekend.

    When you consider that five people have already died in accidents at the Salt River this year, it’s especially important to plan a Salt River tubing trip with safety in mind.

    Most of the accidental deaths at the Salt River are caused by drowning. The tuber’s stretch of the river can include segments that are up to 25 feet deep, depending on the waterline. The Salt River has a strong current that can knock a standing person off their feet, even in shallower water. There are no lifeguards on the river.

    When asked what she would choose to highlight about safety, Vice President of SRTR Lynda Breault said, “”Number one: Wear a life vest if you are a child, a non-swimmer or an inexperienced swimmer.””

    She also said children under the age of 8 and people less than 4 feet tall are not allowed to tube. Dogs of any age or height, however, are welcome on leashes.

    Some accidents are drug or alcohol related. While illegal drugs are not permitted on the Salt River, one can find the occasional tuber smoking marijuana. Alcohol is allowed on the Salt River, but never in glass containers due to the dangers of broken glass. Marijuana and alcohol affect a person’s motor skills, which can result in accidents while swimming or jumping off cliffs.

    “”Stay on your tube. Do not get off,”” Breault said.

    Mud Cliffs near the Blue Point Bridge is a popular spot on the tuber’s stretch of the Salt River. Tubers frequently stop there to jump off the 40-foot tall cliffs. Despite monitoring by Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies, serious accidents can still occur. A 32-year-old man died on May 25 when he jumped off the cliff and hit his head on the way down.

    “”Jumping anywhere in the Salt River is, I believe to be, dangerous because the water is not clear and it’s hard to judge what the depth is,”” said Doug Matteson, a deputy and spokesman for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

    Heat exhaustion and dehydration are also factors that can affect one’s strength, motor skills and judgment.

    “”You can party on the lower Salt River, but you need to do it responsibly,”” Breault said. “”The effect of alcohol is enormously increased under these heat conditions.””

    Breault recommends tubers drink one to two 24-oz.bottles of water per hour. SRTR rents special tubes to fit coolers for $15. Another way to bring food and beverages with you is to secure a cooler directly to your inner tube with bungee cords. Styrofoam coolers are not recommended.

    A hat with a brim that covers your face, head and eyes can help protect you from the aggressive heat. Just as you would whenever you plan to be in the sun for an extended period of time, cover skin that will get direct exposure or use a waterproof sun block. Use a sunblock of SPF 15 or higher depending on your skin type and how long you plan to be exposed. Remember to reapply every 2-3 hours, as even waterproof sunblock will wash away with the current.

    Any part of the inner tube that is not in the water will get very hot. Bring beach towels or old sheets to cover the inner tube. A spray bottle can be handy for cooling off the parts of you that are not in the water.

    Wear old tennis shoes or water shoes to protect your feet from the Salt River’s rocky bottom. (Flip flops will not do the trick.)

    You may see homemade water crafts, but be aware that using rope to tie tubes together can be hazardous and is not recommended by SRTR.

    After the day in the sun, it’s likely that every member of your party will fall asleep in the car on the way back to Tucson. For that reason and due to limited parking, it’s doubly important to carpool.

    “”Select a designated driver before you start your floating adventure,”” Breault said.

    Last but not least, if you are offended by the sight of bare breasts, tubing the Salt River may not be for you. Flashing breasts and cans of beer are treated as tradable commodities during a float.

    The 14th annual “”Bag It For Bucks”” Take Pride in America event will feature live entertainment, water-balloon and hula-hoop contests, and a beach ball bonanza. There will be free beach balls and prizes. Tubers, who collect trash on the river and bring it back to SRTR, will receive $5 discounts on inner tube rentals for future visits.

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