Stop 7

Artificial tinaja in DRLC courtyard
The high fence around the tinaja is designed to keep predatory bullfrogs out.

Tinaja Habitat

“Tinaja” is Spanish for “little jar.” On the landscape, tinajas are perennial and semi-perennial bedrock pools, scoured out by water, sand, and gravel over time. Tinajas are important sources of water and habitat for plants and animals, especially during the dry season. Humans have used tinajas for hundreds (possibly thousands) of years, including ancient Hohokam and present-day Tohono O’odham peoples as well as Mexican, Spanish, and American ranchers and their cattle. Tinajas are threatened by urban sprawl and suburban development, groundwater depletion, wildfires exacerbated by invasive species (buffelgrass), and changing climate patterns.

The DRLC’s artificial tinaja is lined with heavy rubber and covered with recycled concrete. The concrete was sprayed with a coating of cement plaster, which was carved and painted to match local geology. It is fed by stored rainwater that is circulated by a pump (more on this at Stop #10). More than 1,000 hours of volunteer work from local students and visitors made this habitat possible.

The distinctive fence around the tinaja is designed to prevent American bullfrogs from getting in. Although native to the eastern US, American bullfrogs are an invasive scourge in the Southwest. They are drawn to calm perennial waters, such as ponds. These voracious predators have led to the decline and localized extinction of native garter snakes and frogs, such as lowland leopard frogs and Chiricahua leopard frogs. They also spread chytrid fungus, which can wipe out whole populations of native fish and frogs.

How You Can Help

  • Help reduce the need for groundwater pumping by conserving water. Things to do include harvesting rainwater, xeriscaping with native plants, checking your home and irrigation system for leaks, and investing in water-efficient showerheads and other appliances.
  • Never release unwanted pet frogs or science projects into the wild.
  • Do not purchase bullfrogs at any life stage.
  • If you suspect there are bullfrogs in your pond, consult the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s factsheet on how to tell exotic bullfrogs apart from native amphibians and who to contact if you do find bullfrogs.
  • Help keep this tinaja bullfrog-free by making sure the gate closes behind you.
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Last updated: June 21, 2018