|Yes, I'm drinking this water from a cowpie-lined stream.|
The water report for the Arizona Trail, maintained by Fred Gaudet, was our main source of information. Similar to the Pacific Crest Trail water report for Southern California, it lists mileages, type of water source, and the name and date of the last hiker to report on each source.
|Water report for Passage 14. We were there in March 2015. Can you believe no one had updated most of them for so long?|
|Think we should drink this, or go to the next water source?|
|Example of a dirt tank.|
We were always really happy to cross northbound backpackers, because they were reliable source of water source information. Other hikers took the time to explain how the stock tanks and systems of pipes worked, and how the float balls functioned. We learned which sources to skip because they were really disgusting, and which had clear water.
|A natural water source with clear water.|
Other information sources
The Grand Enchantment Trail and Sky Islands Traverse both run concurrent with the Arizona Trail for large stretches, and the water source descriptions for these routes are really helpful.
Water sources including springs and stock tanks are shown on the topo maps I downloaded on my iphone using Gaia GPS. It was really helpful to have these on my GPS for locating off-trail sources.
|Topo maps downloaded onto my smartphone using Gaia GPS show wells, tanks, and springs..|
Ephemeral water sources like potholes are not listed. But you can spot them once you know where to look. You’ll develop a keen search image for water. You’ll spot the bright green of cottonwoods from miles away, see the rock formations that tend to gather pothole water, and even start to believe you can smell the scent of water.
|Potential water source?|
While it is best to use natural water sources, the reality on the Arizona Trail is that there are long stretches without water where caches are important. There are several established metal, public cache boxes, and people also do their own water caches before they hike, especially in Passages 6, 7 and 14 and 15.
|Retrieving water I'd cached before the trip.|
|Public water cache.|
are all in Passage 14 and 15. These were at the Florence-Kelvin Road Trailhead, Freeman Road, Tiger Mine Road Trailhead. These metal containers with locks were located down the trail but close to trailheads. You can put your own water in the boxes (label them with your name and date), and we also found that there were several gallons available for public use. Whoever maintains these caches provides an incredible service!
Some people cache their own water in areas besides the metal boxes, either by leaving it near trailheads or burying their water jugs. If you do this, please label your bottles with your name and expected date of use, and clean up your caches after your hike. Follow leave no trace and either pack out your bottles or pick them up quickly after your hike!
|Digging up my water cache.|
|Packing out the empties.|
When there are no natural water sources, ranches use wells and windmills to bring water to the surface for their cattle. Backpackers can get water from these sources too, as long as they are respectful and take only what they need.
|Climbing the ladder of a stock tank...|
|...to get water strait from the pipe.|
|At troughs, we'd follow the pipes to the water source to see if we could find cleaner water.|
|These signs are meant to remind hikers to be respectful.|
Carrying larger quantities of water required a different system than what I’ve used on trails where I only have to carry a liter or two. With so much water, you could easily get confused which water is clean and which is dirty. Water processing efficiency also needs to be considered, and it all must be able to fit into your pack.
|My water system- 2 L dirty bag, water scoop, two clean bags, sawyer squeeze and aquamira.|
|Filling up with water at a spigot.|
Powered drink mixes masks the taste of gross water sources. A gatorade bottle has a slightly larger opening for mixing drink powders. When I used my sawyer squeeze, it was much easier to squeeze water into the gatorade bottle and it didn’t tip over. Then I would pour the filtered water from the gatorade bottle into the platypus 3 liter bottles (with their small openings, and soft sides, they were more difficult to squeeze into.)
A prefilter in the water scoop gets the floaties and chunks out, and helped prevent the water filter from clogging up.
|Did you bring your pre-filter?|
|Scooping water from a shallow source.|
Time spent developing water skills pays off. Finding and carrying water on Arizona Trail is challenging, but it's worth it to traverse these incredible landscapes. We really learned to appreciate that “water is life.
|Precious water down a wash.|
Fred Gaudet's Water Report
Grand Enchantment Trail's Water Charts