As a San Tan Valley photographer, one of my favorite locations for family photos is along the Salt River in Tonto National Forest, particularly at Water Users Recreation Site.
Best Time for Pictures: The ideal time to visit this red cliff beach paradise is from late March to early October. During this period, the water level is high, and nature’s palette is at its most vibrant. Lush greens and monsoon sunsets provide a stunning backdrop for your photographs. Additionally, sunrise and sunset are prime times for family pictures. The soft, golden light during these times cast a magical glow over the landscape. The interplay of light and shadows against the red cliffs creates a captivating backdrop for your family pictures.
Why it’s great!
Tranquil Water/Beach Area
Designed to be the perfect launch for floating or kayaking the river, this San Tan Valley hot spot is the BEST river photo location for families with young children. The beach is soft enough to play on barefoot and the water is calm enough that you don’t have to stress about your little ones getting swept away.
Additionally, the stillness of the water allows for beautiful reflections of the red cliffs and surrounding flora, adding depth and magic to your pictures.
Beautiful Red Cliffs
The towering red cliffs are the main attraction of this beach, and they offer a striking contrast to the flowing water below. These unique geological formations are a beautiful Arizona phenomenon and provide depth and interest as the backdrop of your family pictures.
Plenty of Parking
Accessibility is a significant advantage of this location. Unlike many scenic spots, ample parking is available nearby, making it easy to reach and explore the beach during your session. The Beach is just a short walk down a gentle, sandy hill.
Keep in mind
It can be busy
As a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts, this beach can get busy during weekends, particularly during the prime water sports season. However, most visitors use the site as a launching point for their activities and do not linger around the photography-worthy areas. To enjoy a more peaceful experience, consider visiting during weekdays or plan your photography session early in the morning or near sunset.
Water Level Fluctuations
The water level at this site is controlled by a dam upriver that is opened in the late spring and closed in the early fall. I’ve been here one night with perfectly high, clean water and come back less than a week later to a much lower water level, a barely moving river, and much less appealing water. If your session is happening in March or October, keep a careful eye on the water level.
Tonto Pass Requirement
Before booking this breathtaking location, be aware that a $12 Tonto Pass is required for entry. This pass supports the conservation efforts of the Tonto National Forest, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty of this pristine beach and its surrounding natural wonders.