Desert Peoples / Homesteaders

Water Carrier

Water Carrier

ca. late 19th – early 20th century

In the desert, staying hydrated is vitally important and water sources are few. To keep water at a drinkable temperature, early desert travelers used tightly woven canvas bags that could be placed on a vehicle exterior. The bag was soaked in water until saturated, then filled, with water tension preventing it from leaking. As the water on the outside evaporates, a small amount of water is pulled through the canvas, keeping the water 25-30 degrees cooler than the outside temperature. While largely superseded by insulated coolers introduced in the 1950s, water bags are still in use today.

Canvas, galvanized tin. H 51, L 51 cm
Desert Queen Ranch collection
Joshua Tree National Park, JOTR 3164