Visit a Desert Stream

Torrent of flood water rushing over bedrock as a waterfall near Grass Shack campground
Flooding near Grass Shack Camp, Rincon Mountain District, October 2014

NPS Photo

Saguaro National Park contains many ephemeral and intermittent desert streams, meaning they usually only flow following heavy rain. This type of stream is best visited the day after a rainstorm, with the most flow occurring after a summer monsoon. Be careful when visiting a flowing stream of any kind -- even just a few inches of rushing water can have enough force to knock down an adult. Flash floods are also common during the summer rain season and can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable. When in doubt, stay dry and stand clear!

Additionally, there are many perennial springs and streams that contain water year-round in the park. Park staff monitor select springs, especially in the higher elevations of the Rincons, to measure which most reliably have water for both wildlife and hikers. Every desert species relies on water to survive, so riparian areas are often the best place to watch for wildlife sightings. Learn more about life in and around desert water sources with this
Riparian Species Identification Guide.

Two bobcats standing at the edge of a tinaja
Desert streams are beautiful, peaceful, and can sometimes offer amazing wildlife sightings like this pair of bobcats

NPS Photo

Directions to Wildhorse Spur Trail
One of our favorite places to visit tinajas in the park is the Wildhorse Spur Trail in the Rincon Mountain District. You can find reliable pools of desert water and at certain times of the year, witness beautiful and relaxing stream flow.

From Wildhorse Trailhead (along East Speedway Blvd.)
One-way 1.9 miles; Round trip 3.8 miles.
Take the Wildhorse Trail south for 1.6 miles. No stock permitted beyond 1.6 miles. Continue along the Wildhorse Spur Trail for 0.3 miles to reach its end. This trail route crosses three major desert stream channels, including Wildhorse Canyon near the terminus of the route.

From Douglas Spring Trailhead (end of East Speedway Blvd.)
One way 2.2 miles; Round trip 4.4 miles
Take the main Douglas Spring Trail for 0.2 miles until junction with the Garwood Trail. Take the Garwood Trail for 0.8 miles until junction with the Wildhorse Trail. Take the Wildhorse Trail for 0.9 miles until junction with the Carrillo Trail. No stock permitted beyond this point on the Wildhorse Spur Trail. Take the Wildhorse Spur Trail 0.3 miles to reach its end. This trail route crosses five major desert stream channels, including Wildhorse Canyon near the terminus of the route.

A group of hikers walking along a stream in the forest. There are pools of water scattered in the bedrock channel and the vegetation is very green and lush.
Hikers enjoy following a stream channel through the forest

NPS Photo

Last updated: May 4, 2021

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3693 S Old Spanish Trail
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