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Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

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Finding Water in the Desert

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Offline Keepa

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  • 190
Finding Water in the Desert
« on: September 17, 2019, 09:18:01 PM »
I am preparing to hike the Hayduke Trail, doing a lot of research, especially when it comes to water, because water is very scarce on the Hayduke Trail.

I am reading an excellent book, The Ultimate Desert Handbook: a Manual for Desert Hikers, Campers and Travelers, by Mark Johnson. It has comprehensive information on camping, hiking and traveling in deserts through out the world. It has great coverage of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of America.

I made summary notes of the section in Chapter 11 called "Natural Clues to Water in the Desert." I thought I would share this with you guys. If you have additional information, please share it.

Natural Clues to Water in the Desert

Animal Trails leading to vegetation
Convergent animal tracks
Javelina, always close to water
Sand dunes meeting sea: dig above high tide mark for possible water
Near coastline, water can push up through sand to shallow pools
Reeds and salt grasses may overlie damp ground
Flies and mosquitos are always near water
Bees travel straight lines to water
Grouping of bird life in an area may indicate water
Pigeons and doves: fly straight to water, fly low and slow and stop when returning from water
Water seepage through sandstone
Sandstone formations often contain small pockets or puddles of water
Seepage where dry aroyo cuts through a layer of porous sandstone
At base of rock cliffs
At low areas of gravel runoffs
In tinajas
Dig for water where there is vegetation
Dig for water where there are cottonwood or sycamore trees
Presence of seepwillows, cane, rushes, reeds, bunchgrass indicates water is closer to the surface
Dig hole at lowest point of the outside edge of a sharp bend in a wash or dry river bed, especially if trees are present
Dig in or around the roots of larger palm trees
To conserve energy, dig half way and let water seep into the hole
Dew on grass and other vegetation in predawn
Turn over half buried stones and lick the moist bottom
Broad leaf yuccas and agave plants hold water that runs down their leaves and collects at the base

Safe water bearing plants

Fishhook barrel cactus (Ferocactus wizilizenii), has J shaped spines. Chew the whitish inner pith or pulp for moisture, spit pulp out. Cool the pulp or liquid of it is too hot
Large agave (Century plant), moisture in the stalk, avoid leaves. Chew the inner pith or pulp of the stalk, spit pulp out
Prickly pear, buckhorn cholla, Organ pipe or saguaro fruit.
Buds of the cholla cactus

Transpiration bags (wrap plastic around vegetation to condense the moisture) and solar stills: forget it, does not work. More precisely, you loose more moisture through sweat in setting them up then you recover from them.

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Offline DeserTrek

  • Kangaroo Rat
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Re: Finding Water in the Desert
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2019, 09:51:28 PM »
You may want to try reaching out to BOSS out of Boulder, UT. They are one of the best survival schools in the country. Maybe they will be able to offer a short crash course or some helpful advice, especially with area in question.

https://www.boss-inc.com/

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Offline mule ears

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  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Finding Water in the Desert
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2019, 06:33:14 AM »
Many good points there Keepa.

I have walked many sections of the Hayduke and with relatively normal rainfall you should not have too much trouble finding water, the long waterless stretches are known and what they are.  Here is my Hayduke info/planning page.  Skurka's package is still probably the best place to start.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline Keepa

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Re: Finding Water in the Desert
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2019, 12:32:31 PM »
Many good points there Keepa.

I have walked many sections of the Hayduke and with relatively normal rainfall you should not have too much trouble finding water, the long waterless stretches are known and what they are.  Here is my Hayduke info/planning page.  Skurka's package is still probably the best place to start.

Thanks, Mule Ears. Thanks for the planning page link, I had not seen that before. I have Skurka's package and the official guidebook. I have also read most of the material online. I hope I can hit the trail next spring.

For me it's more than the Hayduke, I want to learn all there is about the deserts in the southwest. I am fascinated by them.

 


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