Live Oak & Ivanpah Tanks Wildflower Report

Trek Date: March 9, 1014

After locating Surprise Tank in Queen Valley, and seeing the significant amount of water behind the dam there, I decided to drive to the Live Oak picnic area and hike down the wash to see if either Live Oak Tank or Ivanpah Tank held any water behind them. I thought the chances were good, as the park had received 2+ inches of rain a few days earlier.

I turned onto the road that leads to the picnic area and drove all the way to the end. There's plenty of room to park where the road dead ends, in sight of the huge Live Oak tree. The wash that runs through this area gets a lot of water, as is evident by its size and the amount of sand. The giant oak tree and surrounding vegetation kind of gives that away too. 

Once I got past the Live Oak and started heading south in the wash, the canyon began to narrow down and suddenly I realized I needed to add "Wildflower Report" to the title of this post. It's only about 1/10-mile from the Live Oak to Live Oak Tank, but in just that short distance I passed a number of different varieties of wildflowers. (Author's caveat: I am by no means an expert on wildflowers. I've tried to add their names to photos when I could. If anyone notices a mistake, or can name one I haven't named, please contact me)

Live Oak Tank, view looking north.

Live Oak Tank is almost completely filled with sand. The dam itself stands about four feet high, is fourteen feet long and about eight inches thick. It is the typical stone, rubble masonry and cement construction dam found in most of the tanks in J Tree. It was reportedly constructed by C.O. Barker, who grazed cattle in the area. The dam is still in excellent condition.

The wash continues south for a short distance, before gradually beginning to bend towards the east. It's easy to see the effects of flash floods running through this wash.

As this picture shows, a lot of hikers have been in this wash. I wonder if it had any water running in it during the last storm. It would be very interesting to see a flash flood roaring through this canyon, from a safe vantage point, of course.

Ivanpah Tank is the larger of the two tanks in this wash, and it's located about 1/3-mile from Live Oak Tank. As I hiked through the sand, lots of sand, the wildflowers continued to put on a stunning show. I was quite surprised by the number of different types I saw, and wouldn't doubt that I may have missed a few. It was easy taking pictures of them (although my closeup shots need some work), the more difficult task will be putting names to all of them. But I'll give it a try.

Rounding the last, gentle bend of the wash opened up a view of a rather large, wide flat area surrounded by taller hills and rocks. I had reached Ivanpah Tank. The stone dam here measures twenty-four feet long and stands thirteen feet high. The stone and cement dam was probably built in the 1920s, reportedly by our earlier acquaintance, C.O. Barker. Although, Bill Mchaney claimed in an interview that he and Bill Keys helped a man by the name of C.W Roach build the dam to store water for use in his mining claims in Gold Park. My guess would be that it Barker was the man responsible for creating Ivanpah Tank. When originally built, the full reservoir would have been approximately two acres in extent, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in J Tree.

Today, there's a lot of sand. I've never seen a picture of the tank with water in it, but I'm sure there are times when it must hold a significant amount. That would be great to see.

It looks like the dam may have been built in two stages, with the upper portion added at a later date, but I haven't been able to find any record of that. There was a small pool of water in front of the dam when I was there. It's a pretty impressive bit of masonry work. It looks like the sand level on the inside is level with the mostly cement part of the dam. I wonder if the floor of the reservoir was a lot lower when it was originally built, and has just filled in over the years.

I climbed a small rise to the south of the dam, to see what was on the other side, and I caught this glimpse of what looks suspiciously like a big pile of tailings. I wonder if there was a mine right over there? 

Heading back up the wash, I was a bit disappointed that I didn't find any water in either of the tanks, but the abundance of wildflowers almost made up for it. These tanks might be ones I'll need to visit immediately after some big storms, to see if they can still hold water.

I was almost back to the big oak when I saw this interesting, double-hole rock. And yes, I stepped through it. 

And there, just ahead, was the Live Oak. I don't believe I've seen a bigger oak anywhere in the park, it's a nice shady spot under which to rest.

But checking my watch, I saw I had enough time to either rest, or to find one more spot I had read about, before heading for home. So I set out to find the mysterious Brunette Lady of Joshua Tree.