For children, tubing the Salt River is a learning experience. We learned that saguaros are native only to this part of the world, that the bald eagle is an endangered species in the Sonoran Desert and, most important, to keep our butts from sinking all the way down in the tube when floating over jagged rocks (or we'd be the only kid with a butt cheek hanging out of shredded shorts). Childhood social trauma aside, the Salt River remains one of the few places within a 45-minute drive where you can cool off in a kayak or an inner tube. This summer, the Saguaro Lake Ranch Resort, 13020 North Bush Highway, wants to get your butt in an inner tube or a kayak -- and leave it unscathed. After a five-minute orientation, you'll be paddling past cliffs, cactuses and wildlife in a "sit-on-top" kayak -- or floating atop the current in a tube. The area is home to wild deer, horses, and a variety of large birds, and the resort vows that its section of the Salt River is "free from the litter so often seen downstream."
Kayak rentals run $25 to $70, and tube rentals range from $8 to $16. The resort also rents out cabins for those who need a longer getaway. Call 480-984-2194. - Niki D' Andrea
Athletes compete in "Splash and Dash"
Naysayers pan Tempe Town Lake as a biohazard, a waste of resources and a hokey tourist attraction. But it seems the Town Lake has found its niche -- as a playground and proving ground for some serious athletes. Take "Splash and Dash," the latest example of the lake's appeal to wanna-be and will-be hard-core triathletes. On Saturday, August 7, and Sunday, August 8, the lake hosts "Splash and Dash," the first in a series of events continuing through October. The Scottsdale Running Company's 1,000-meter swim and 3K run takes place from 7 to 8 a.m. Competitors meet and register at the Rural Road Bridge entrance at ASU's Lot 59. Registration is $20 to $30, depending on membership. Call 480-226-4729 or see www.redrocktriathlon.com.- Joe Watson