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The "Jug" - Salome Wilderness, Tonto National Forest

Summary: A beautiful, technical granite slot canyon with considerable wading and swimming required.
Directions: The Salome Jug is located in the western part of the Sierra Ancha Wilderness near Roosevelt Lake (yet another man made retention pond dubbed a 'lake'). From Phoenix take the Bee Line Highway east towards Payson. Turn right (south) on Highway 188. About 8 miles south of Punkin Center turn left on the well graded, dirt A Cross Road. A short distance later you will have to cross a rocky stream bed, which may prove difficult if water is flowing. Follow the signs to stay on A Cross Road for about 10 miles. Look on the left for a small parking area and Salome Creek Wilderness sign. Park here.
Road Conditions: High Clearance Vehicle
Navigation: Easy
Length: 5 miles
Date Hiked: September, 1999, August 2000 & April 2001, July 2002, April 2003
Weather Conditions: Hot - you'll want to do this hike on a day when temperatures are > 100F with all the wading and swimming involved. The hike can be completed at other times of the year with a wet suit.
Required Skills:
Hike Description: Caution:  This is a technical canyoneering hike.  The amount of water can vary significantly in this canyon effecting the difficulty.  Words of wisdom: do not attempt this hike alone, one member of the party should be vertically proficient, carry at least one 100 ft rope minimum, do not climb down anything you can not get back up, do not hike this canyon if water levels are raging or storms threaten.  Bring a flotation device to keep camera gear dry, a child's pool floaty works great. Take care as you hike, the polished granite is quite slippery.  

From the car park next to the large bulletin board, follow the old gravel jeep road down hill for ~2 miles.  Along the way you'll catch glimpses of the "Jug" portion of the hike where the water has cut a deep channel through the granite.  Once at the bottom of the hill, follow the stream bed left along a prominent path until the canyon is shallow enough to climb down into.  Once in the bottom simply walk down stream.  The canyon consists of polished pink granite which gradually becomes deeper as you proceed.  Right from the start you will encounter some waist deep pools that will require wading (no point trying to keep your feet dry here).  There may also be a few cattail thickets that will require bush whacking.  The further down stream you go the deeper the pools become.  There is some swimming required as well as several climbs or slides into pools.  If water is low there is likely to be more algae growth which makes the rocks even slipperier and can make climbing out of some pools difficult.  At one point you may notice that the canyon has an unusual smell.  A brood of Mexican Free Tail Bats have made their home in the crack in the rock above the stream, it is their guano that has that distinctive odor (if you spend a moment listening it may be possible to hear their sqeaky calls).  As you near the bottom of the canyon you will come to the one technical rappel, a waterfall leading down into the "Jug".  There is a bolt on stream right just above the falls which makes for a nice anchor point.  There are also two other bolts and hangers further out on the right above a ledge.  If you can climb out there it would be possible to have a short free rappel into the pool below, however, the slope of the rock leading out to those points make the climb out to the bolts sketchy - best to rig off the easy to reach one. A 100 ft rope doubled over will get you most of the way down the water fall to a point where you may be able to wedge yourself into the falls while you pull the rope down, but a 150ft rope would make this task easier.  From the bottom of the falls there are two moderate swims and a short hike before you reach the end.  The canyon widens quickly at that point.  Hike down stream a few hundred yards and watch for a use trail which leads up the skree slope on the right.  At the top of the slope you will arrive at the old jeep track which you can follow back to your car.

Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife have completed this hike several times.  The first time (Labor Day '99) water levels were perfect, with the gently flowing stream making for frequent swims through cool clear water.  We reached the rappel point and realized that the rope we brought was too short, so returned the way we came.  We then walked around to the bottom and swam up to the falls from below.  In August of 2000 when we returned, water levels were quite low and the pools had considerable algae growth.  Low water levels actually made the hike more difficult due to the slipperiness of the algae and granite.  This time a 100 ft rope was available which enabled us to complete the canyon as a through trip.  We returned again in April of 2001 after a wet winter.  Water levels were very high making for slow going and some challenging climbing. In high water it is recommended that you perform the traverse to the second bolt station rather than rappel directly down the waterfall, since the force of the water could prove dangerous.
Books: Canyoneering Arizona - Tyler Williams
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

The Jug from the rim. Some swimming required.
Pink granite narrows. Another view in the Jug.