Twin Tanks


The Twin Tanks are a couple of natural tanks enhanced by cattle ranchers to hold more water by concrete dams. The southern dam is concrete with rock mixed in and the northern one is plain concrete. This one also has an inscription of “C. O. Barker” in the corner.

Barker was a cattle rancher who in the late 1890s and early 1900s improved many of the natural tanks in what is now Joshua Tree National Park, including building the more famous Barker Dam. You may be surprised to learn that cattle ranching would be profitable at all out here in this arid desert, but rainfall was more plentiful a century ago.

There are a few petroglyphs and pictographs out in this area. They are faint and difficult to find. A set of cupules is below the South Dam.

Getting There

The large Twin Tanks parking lot is 0.5 mile north from the White Tank Campground on the Pinto Basin Road inside of Joshua Tree National Park.

Hike Directions

Hike Distance2 miles (3.2km) Out & Back
Trail TypeCross-Country
Hike DifficultyEasy
Elevation Gain, Loss250 ft (76m) gain round trip.
Hike Time1 hour

This trip makes an easy hike and the area around Twin Tanks could be used as a pleasant overnight backcountry camp.

From the trailhead, hike cross-country west-southwest, crossing a sandy wash just south of the trailhead into the mostly flat and open Mojave Desert. The southern of the two rock tanks is just below a distinct white quartz rock outcrop about a mile away; aim towards it.

Continue west, you will enter a low maze of sculpted White Tank granite bedrock outcrops. Keep left of the first outcrop as you continue on. Those distant hills of darker rock are of Precambrian metamorphic gneiss. At greater than half a billion years old, they are some of the oldest rocks in California.

Drop into the next sandy wash and it should lead you directly to the southern of the two tanks. Enter a narrow slot below the dam and you will find cupules pecked into the granite by Native Americans long ago. Were they used for counting? No one knows for sure, but they are very old.

From the base of southern dam, you can walk around to the left on slope of granite outcrop to reach the top of the dam.

To find the northern tank, go back down to the bottom of the dam and follow a faint trail up to the right where white boulders have fallen into the canyon. Continue north over granite bedrock for a couple hundred feet until you get to the northern dam. The tanks are usually dry, except after a period of heavy rain. Return the way you came or follow the wash north for 0.3 miles and then turn east back to the trailhead. This is easy country to navigate and there are quite a few interesting granite rock formations and narrow slots explore in the area.


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Last Updated on May 21, 2021 by Guy Starbuck