The Tinajas Project at Saguaro National Park

What is a Tinaja?

Tinaja (tin-AH-hahs) means "large, earthen jar" in Spanish and is also the local name in Arizona for bedrock pools found in desert streams. In the Rincon Mountains, hundreds of tinajas hold water throughout most of the year. Tinajas are popular swimming holes in Sabino Canyon; in Saguaro National Park, they are principal habitat for aquatic frogs, turtles and other animals that live in water. They are also the best source of drinking water for all types of wildlife ranging from dragonflies to black bears. Some tinajas are spring-fed and contain clear, clean water year-round.


The Tinajas Project

The Tinajas project celebrates the streams that flow from the mountain areas of Saguaro National Park down through our dry deserts. These unique and beautiful riparian areas are dry much of the year, but when they flow, they are sources of joy and sustenance for wildlife and people. Even when they appear dry, desert streams still contain water underground and in rock pools known as tinajas (pronounced tin-AH-hahs) that are prime habitat for leopard frogs, mud turtles, and many other aquatic animals.

In partnership with Friends of Saguaro National Park, the park hopes to conserve these amazing places for future generations and engage volunteers in helping protect them through restoration and citizen science. We are grateful for fincancial support for restoration projects from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management and the National Park Foundation.

Adult lowland leopard frog on the edge of a bedrock pool, its body partially submerged in water. It has a pattern of brownish spots on its greenish body and a pointed face.
Lowland leopard frog

Photo: Erin Zylstra

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A tinaja or rock pool. It is a pool of clear, fresh water nestled in an expanse of bedrock, along a desert stream. Another tinaja is visible downstream in the distance and the background is a beautiful Sonoran desert landscape.
Tinajas in the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park

NPS Photo

Last updated: October 19, 2023

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3693 S Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, AZ 85730


520 733-5153

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