Want a birds-eye view of Mother Nature’s awesome Southwestern USA spectacle?
Desert Splash delivers just that—with panache.
This is the thrill of a seaplane ride dipping between saguaro
or rock covered mountains taking you into vistas of protected National Forests that cannot be reached by roads.
Magic!—whether it’s the gentle splash landing near an island lake,
seeing the plane’s shadow in a steep cliff,
spying Native American cave dwellings from another time or sensing the distinct personalities of wind weathered rocks,
and often feeling as though the outcroppings on mountain tops are fingers clasped in prayer that you can somehow reach out and touch.
Our journey began in Desert Splash’s comfortable hangar at the Scottsdale Airport that sometimes serves double duty as a corporate event location. There we first met up with Desert Splash co-founder and AzOps General Manager, Scott Currier, who recounted to us how the idea for these panoramic seaplane adventures in the Sonoran Desert began.
“My good friend in Alaska is also a pilot and fly fishing junkie. We started doing caravans in 2007 to Alaskan fishing lodges. At first it was just passenger traffic. The business grew—first four more airplanes, then three, each a 10-seater like the one Desert Splash uses. We then built a 10,000 square foot hangar for our fleet and the planes started doing Medivac and US Mail duties along the inside passage to Ketchikan from British Columbia, along the same route that the cruise ships take. In winter the Alaskan business slows, and so we had the idea to begin tours here in the Southwest.”
Currier calls Scottsdale his home and besides now running Desert Splash also runs a civil engineering firm that he founded years ago and somehow finds time to do extensive charity work with the Scottsdale Charros.
Currier’s love of the land has clearly put its mark on Desert Splash.
Currier found a kindred spirit in our tour’s pilot, Rob Norberg, an avid outdoorsman who, along with his dog, takes many a trek or seaplane ride to wilderness adventures in Alaska, the Sonoran Desert and beyond.
Each Desert Splash plane can hold up to nine passengers and usually holds at least four.
Everyone gets a window seat so bring your cameras.
Everyone also gets a headset to hear the pilot’s tour remarks and to relax to the music that he plays, from Vivaldi to rockabilly, as you wish.
Some of the highlights of the “Apache Air Trail” tour that we took included: rock formations along the Superstition Mountains; learning the history of how the Apache evaded the Cavalry in this area during the Indian Wars of the 1870’s; seeing Native American cliff dwellings in the mountainsides; seeing stands of saguaro cacti, evenly spread across the rising cliffs; flying past the area of the legendary Lost Dutchman Mine and hearing of its history.
After circling the scenic Roosevelt Bridge and Dam our pilot made an ever so gentle landing in Roosevelt Lake taking us to Splash Island.
We were in the middle of protected national forest after having flown over similar forests only approachable by air or boat, and areas only approachable by a death-defying road with many hairpin turns.
It’s on this small island that other Desert Splash tours host a fine dining brunch.
In our case, we shared some light “adult beverages” and happily sat soaking up the sun in lounge chairs for a while before re-boarding the plane for the return.
Our island lingering was just long enough to make the return flight yet another palette of colors and shadow in a somewhat settling sun.
As spectacular as our flight was, it is perhaps Desert Splash’s most vanilla offering. Through partnerships with other tour organizations, Desert Splash also combines seaplane adventures with horseback riding, standup paddle boarding, hiking, and trips to Arizona’s breathtaking Sedona and Grand Canyon and many more luxury adventure excursions from which you can choose.
Alas, this is one Scottsdale excursion that won’t be available to the summer steal traveler as the plane is called back into duty in Alaska during the Southwest’s hotter summer months.
Learn more about various Desert Splash offerings by visiting the Desert Splash website or calling them toll-free at 877 588 8819.
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Photos: Peter Kachergis unless otherwise indicated
Published on Feb 01, 2014