Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tinaja - pronounced tin-nya-ha

A tinaja is a interesting feature in the desert. As the Mojave is the hottest driest desert in the western hemisphere, guests are always amazed when they see a tinaja. Tinaja is a Paiute word.

A tinaja is a eroded out depression usually in sandstone. It is eroded by water, wind, and the freeze thaw cycle. It is a catch basin. When it rains these depressions fill with water and provide a water hole for desert dwellers. Unfortunately, the water is only temporary as the hot sun evaporates the water eventually. While they are full, however, they are a miniature oasis in the desert.

Early European settlers to the Mojave like the Mormons named the tinaja "tanks", as in a tank of water.

This is a tinaja that we came upon at Toroweap. Small ones like this will evaporate quickly.
Sitting near a tank like this one in the early morning or late evening would certainly give one an opportunity to see desert dwellers. Crepuscular is the name given to those animals that are the most active at dawn and dusk. The desert cottontail rabbit is a good example.

Here I am at Toroweap within hours of a rain shower. You can see how the rain puddles in the depressions. Usually within a day these smaller puddles are completely evaporated.

A beautiful little reflecting pool right on the north rim at Toroweap.

Another pool at Toroweap.

Of course, the bigger the tinaja, the longer the water lasts. When the tanks were full, people and animals could wander further from the springs expanding their range. One of the best examples of a tank is the one that is near Atlatl rock in Valley of Fire State Park.

This tank is about two to three feet deep. Last year it was empty by about mid August.

Dry as a bone!

This tank is about 8 yards from the one above. It is shallower and would have made a nice place to bathe.

A closer view of the last. Looks inviting, doesn't it? It is only 6 to 8 inches deep.

One interesting thing about these tanks is that Ferry Shrimp lay their eggs in the mud just before the Tinyaha dries up. The eggs lay dormant until there is water and the shrimp thrive until the tank dries up again.

This is the Atlatl Rock tank late in the summer when it is only a foot or so deep. If you look
above the tank at the far end, you can see a couple of steps that were carved into the rock in order to step down closer to the water when it is low. The Anasazi chipped hand and footholds into the sandstone for safety.

More catch basins from Toroweap.

This is Mouse's Tank in Valley of Fire State park.

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