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'It didn't look like Pinball Alley at all': Part of Salt River shut down after debris, fast rapids from rainfall cause dangerous conditions

Tonto National Forest closed a section of the Salt River for two weeks due to monsoon flooding.

MESA, Ariz. — If you're planning on cooling off in the Salt River anytime soon, you may run into some rough and potentially dangerous waters.

The Tonto National Forest said recent monsoon storms created a rockslide that flooded the river with debris. This has caused a section of the river known as Pinball Alley to completely change and shut down.

"To me, it just didn't look like Pinball Alley at all," said Mesa resident Dylan Buzzard.

Buzzard kayaks down the river every weekend and noticed right away that the path he usually travels narrowed significantly from the rockslide. 

"Which makes the water move faster and the rapids that are there way more aggressive," he said.

Buzzard posted a TikTok video showing the change and the dangers people are now facing.

"I, unfortunately, witnessed about 15 people flip, whether it was on their kayak, on a tube," he said. 

The fast-moving rapids also started pushing people into low-hanging trees. Which is when the Tonto National Forest stepped in.

"The trees hanging in the river was an obvious hazard," said Jason Scow, a recreation staff officer with Tonto National Forest.

He said they closed down that part of the river for two weeks, preventing people from entering water users' recreation sites until they could go in and clear out the branches.

It was a challenge for Scow.

"We had to kayak out to the island just to get to the trees," he said.

Still, the aggressive rapids remain. As of now, there are no future plans for crews to go in and dig out the rocks. 

"The same thing could happen again," Scow said.  "We can't dig the river out every time that there's some debris in it."

Those who want to ride the entire river and avoid the narrow pathway should stick to the right side of the river to miss the rapids. If you want to not worry about the situation at all, Scow said you can start your river trip at the bridge.

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