Desert Splash Tours gives adventure new point of view

Above: Desert Splash's float plane at sunset. Adventures | 6 Nov, 2014 |

When people think of outdoor adventures in Arizona, they don’t usually jump straight to sea plane tours. However, Desert Splash Adventures has been the only company to offers sea plane tours in the desert for the last four years, and the company’s season in Arizona is just starting to lift off again. Flights depart from Scottsdale Airport and go to places such as Roosevelt Lake and Lake Powell for sightseeing expeditions, sunrise champagne, paddleboarding, canyoneering or a private island beach party or brunch.

View of Desert Splash Tour trip by Roosevelt Dam, Salt River and Tonto National Forest.

View of Desert Splash Tour trip by Roosevelt Dam, Salt River and Tonto National Forest.

Lynn Wenger, director of events with Desert Splash, said her favorite program is the brunch trip. On the second Saturday of every month, or by private charter, Desert Splash takes a plane out to an island on Roosevelt Lake and offers a gourmet organic catered brunch with specialty wines.

“My all-time favorite experience now is the brunch,” Wenger said. “I’ve done a lot of traveling in my life and I have to say that’s at the top of the list.”

Desert Splash operates with one plane. It hosts tours in Alaska during the summertime, and comes down to sunny and warm Arizona for the winter months. Tours run, mostly by private charter, October 1 to April 30, and Desert Splash is now in its fourth year of operation.

“It was kind of a field of dreams, build it and they will come mentality,” Wenger said of the company. Wenger said Desert Splash is the only sea plane tour operating out of Arizona, and that taking a sea plane to look at the scenery, land on a lake and continue the adventure offers a unique experience for Arizona residents and visitors alike.

Wenger said the Apache Air Trail, a tour that takes off from Scottsdale and lands on Roosevelt lake, is the most popular of all the tours offered.

“It’s really the backbone of our operation,” Wenger said. “Off of the Apache Air Trial, people can then add on a brunch, or paddleboarding or canyoneering, so it all builds from there.”

The company only has one plane, a Cessna 850 Caravan owned by Desert Splash’s parent company, Island Air Express. The unique plane seats nine passengers, and every passenger gets a window view for the sight-seeing tour.

Wenger said Desert Splash’s only pilot, Rob Norberg, regularly gets 5-star ratings on customer reviews of the business.

“He’s heavily invested in understanding the geography of the area as well as what makes Arizona unique,” Wenger said.

All except one of the tours offered by Desert Splash showcases a water landing, which Wenger described as a “pillow-soft” landing on the water. The company’s canyoneering adventure was featured on the Travel Channel. The tour starts with a water landing on Roosevelt Lake and continues with a picnic lunch and professionally guided tour through the canyons surrounding the lake.

Desert Splash operates mainly through chartered business, such as people wanting to take their friends or family out for a unique experience, or companies looking for new ways to have corporate getaways.

However, every Thursday Desert Splash offers a public flight that allows people to call in and book a seat instead of the entire plane for the pre-planned flight.

Wenger said the flight is a way to see and experience Arizona that everyone should try.

“They get to see so much in such a short period of time,” Wenger said. “Most people walk away saying, ‘Wow, I never knew that.’”

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