The Salt River, AZ , Part 2, March 23-24

We had arrived at one of our favorite lay-over camps – Blackjack Wash. It, too, was over-grown, but still made a great camp. Blackjack Wash, at Mile 31.0,  is located .7 of a mile upstream from Quartzite Falls Rapid – the “power spot” of the Salt River – and one can hike downstream from the camp to, first, obtain a view of the rapid from above and then continue down a wash to the rapid’s edge. Additionally, one often gets the opportunity to watch boats run the rapid from these vantage points.

Campsite at Blackjack Wash, April 2017, upstream view. Compare the amount of foliage in this photo to the one below. Also, in this photo, note the new island just off the river-right shoreline (photo left)

Some of the new foliage now being seen along the river includes the native Gooddings willow. This medium-sized tree is very handsome and (IMHO) a welcome addition to the riparian zone. So … why did the Salt River riparian zone get so over-grown? Some years ago, two very large wildfires burned through a number of Salt River tributary creeks and drainages, laying many thousands of acres bare. From these burned and bare areas, subsequent monsoon rains carried off large amounts of soil, some of which got deposited along the banks of the Salt River. And this new soil (we were told) is given credit for stimulating the growth of vegetation in the riparian zone of the Salt River.

Blackjack Wash, in 2005, with low water and considerably less vegetative cover

Some Blackjack Wash flora.

Desert rosemallow


Arizona fishhook cactus

Feather dahlia

Saguaro and ocotillo.

Brittlebush, saguaro and a blooming purple hedgehog cactus, left of center

Barrel cactus

Some camp and other scenes.

Our camp was generously supplied with liquor

Flo and Ethan, upstream view. Beyond them is seen the first and lowest flatiron in the White Ledges flatiron group of four (which is more fully explained below).

Waves in the flames and the river. Pitchy wood throws black smoke from our campfire, which is contained in a fire pan

All the rock formations here are steeply tilted. These rocks are part of the Yankee Joe Formation, evening downstream view

Titled Yankee Joe slabs across the river, with a peak of the White Ledges to the left, downstream view

Across the river, tilted Yankee Joe slabs below and White Ledges flatirons above

The river has cut through the steeply tilted White Ledges at Blackjack Wash. Continuing downstream, this layer then runs parallel to the river and has been carved into a number of flatiron formations, four of which are positioned across the river from camp. All of #2 and parts of #1 and #3 are seen in the above photo. Below is  flatiron #4, the highest of the group, downstream view. BTW, where have you seen flatirons before? Perhaps The Flatirons at Boulder, CO? – which are formed in sandstone layers. Here is the Wikipedia definition of a flatiron: “Traditionally in geomorphology, a flatiron is a steeply sloping triangular landform created by the differential erosion of a steeply dipping, erosion-resistant layer of rock overlying softer strata. Flatirons have wide bases that form the base of a steep, triangular facet that narrows upward into a point at its summit. The dissection of a hogback by regularly spaced streams often resulted in the formation of a series of flatirons along the strike of the rock layer that formed the hogback. As noted in some, but not all definitions, a number of flatirons are perched upon the slope of a larger mountain with the rock layer forming the flatiron inclined in the same direction as, but often at a steeper angle than the associated mountain slope. The name flatiron refers to their resemblance to an upended, household flatiron.”

Flatiron #4 – the highest of the group seen from camp

Below, ripple-marks on different layers of the Yankee Joe Formation, seen across from camp. Each individual layer, deposited at a different time, and under different conditions from the other layers, shows a different size and orientation of the ripple-marks. BTW, these ripple-marks could be casts of ripple-marks of over-lying layers. I’m not enough of a geologist to be able to say, one way or the other.

Tall saguaro and slabs

Blackjack Creek, in the Yankee Joe Formation

White Ledges peak, upstream of camp.

Looking down at Quartzite Falls Rapid from an overlook on the hike downstream. The White Ledges are again cut through here. The layer then continues to the high point of the ridge opposite and to and through the distant mountain on the left (photo taken on prior trip).

Looking upstream from the same overlook as in the above photo. From right to left,  we first see the White Ledges in the far distance, as the uppermost layer on a mountain ridge, then as a series of flatirons paralleling the river and finally the large flatiron on photo left. We call the slabby face of this flatiron “Waldo Wall”. This is the same face seen on river-right at Quartzite Falls Rapid in the above photo. (photo taken on prior trip).

The end point of the hike are these red-blue-grey quartzite layers that overlook the rapid, with White Ledges boulders opposite ( (photo taken on prior trip)

Some of us watched a group of commercial rafts take an unexpected approach to the rapid, which we imitated the next day when it was our turn, with very satisfactory results. The next post will cover the remainder of the trip.

Here’s the link to the post of Part 1:

About Evensteven

I am a photographer and author, and live in Embudo, New Mexico, alongside the Rio Grande. I have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: The Grand: I have also published six additional iBooks: 1. The Salt River: 2. Coyote Buttes: 3. Four Cornered, the Land: 4. Four Cornered, The Rivers: 5. Rio Marañon: 6. Rio Grande:
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