Monday, February 27, 2017

Water in the Desert

Sand Canyon Map track

Great Falls Basin Map track
The Falls of Great Falls Basin
We have done several hikes in the local area over the last week, and the theme is water.  In some of these canyons we haven’t seen flowing water in years, in others with perennial streams the water looks like small rivers.

Two of our hikes were in the Argus Range - Indian Joe Canyon and Great Falls Basin.  Neither are amazing birding destinations, but both have interesting rock formations and are often a wind free choice when storms are hitting the Sierra.  We had running water in both canyons, and signs that there might be flowers later this spring.  We hiked to a nice over look of Wilson Canyon on our Indian Joe Canyon trip and in Great Falls Basin we climbed to a high point with nice views of Telescope Peak.

Telescope Peak and the Panamint Mountains in the distance

Searles Lake near Trona has lots of water

Great Falls Basin

Great Falls Basin

Some interesting geology

A roaring creek in Sand Canyon
In the Sierra we have visited Sand, Cow Heaven, and Short Canyons. In order to get to the Sand Canyon parking area you have to drive through a stream.  On this trip we thought the better choice would be to park and then find a way across.  Where there is usually a stream about three feet across, it was now fifteen feet, fast and deep.  We told our friend, Bill, who joined us that it would be an easy hike over about three quarters of a day.  Instead, it was a twenty minute adventure just to get across the stream to where we would normally park the car.  Eventually we made it and with dry feet.  Then up it the next stream crossing, which usually involves balancing on a few well-placed logs and hopping across.  On this trip, Bob put in an extra ten logs and we still all ended up with wet feet.  Oh well, that thirty minutes of work was pointless, and only two more stream crossings to complete our loop and get back to the car.  At the bottom of Rodecker Flat, Susan found a downed tree we walked across.  Nice.  On our final stream crossing one well-placed rock and a long jump got us over.  We did though have an interesting half mile of ups and downs on a coyote trail before we got back to the car as we crossed well above the normal stream crossing.

Trying to figure out a route through the swamp

Building a bridge.  Hint: it didn't work...

The first paintbush flowers of the season

Spanish Needle Peak

The usually dry creek bottom in Cow Heaven Canyon
Cow Heaven Canyon had a few interesting birds – red-breasted sapsucker, white-headed woodpecker, and two great horned owls.  The star of the day though was flowing water.  Cow Heaven hasn’t had flowing water in five years, ten years, well so long, we can’t actually remember the last time we saw it.  It was such a novelty, that we sat by a tiny waterfall and listened to running water while we ate our lunch.


Interesting rock formations in Cow Heaven Canyon

Significant water in Short Canyon
Short Canyon produced 23 species with many singing birds.  This is a very good number for any canyon in the winter.  The perennial stream in the lower canyon is flowing again (it dried up for the first time in our recollection two years ago), and all the side canyons had water as well.  Yellow throated phacelia is putting on a nice show in the lower canyon along the road.  Look high on the north facing slope.  There are also a few poppies and coreopsis blooming, but it doesn’t look like there will be a big impressive bloom along the trail.

A waterfall

There hasn't been water like this in Short Canyon for years


  1. I like the miniature wheel. Clever to spot that. Also nice to see back country views and rare water in the desert. Thanks so much for sharing with us. I forgot how rocky it is over there in the Argus Range!