White Tank and “The Arch” (Joshua Tree National Park)

White Tank

White Tank

 

White Tank Campground is one of the smallest campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park, and is best fitted for those wishing to car camp. There are limited resources provided, and there is no water available, so bring plenty.

Besides camping, White Tank provides for some easy hiking and exploring opportunities around the White Tank monzogranite boulders, that the area takes its name from.

How was White Tank monzogranite formed, you ask? Well, Joshua Tree National Park provides the following explanation:

White Tank monzogranite commonly displays sets of cracks, called joints, that intersect at roughly right angles. The nearly vertical cracks probably occurred when the rock mass contracted while cooling—movement along fault lines may also have contributed. Then, as erosion removed the overlying rock, nearly horizontal cracks were created as the monzogranite expanded up. These intersecting joints created more or less cube-shaped blocks of rock.

While the monzogranite was still below the surface, water, containing carbon dioxide, moved through the joint cracks. Little by little the rock was dissolved into individual mineral grains. Since this process is more effective on corners and edges, as there is more surface area than on faces, the cubes slowly changed into rock spheres—sort of like ice cubes melting.

"The Arch" at White Tank

“The Arch” at White Tank

 

Large formations of White Tank monzogranite

Large formations of White Tank monzogranite

 

A natural tank, which has had no interference by man-made dams like most tanks in Joshua Tree NP.

A natural tank, which has had no interference by man-made dams like most tanks in Joshua Tree NP.

 

“The Arch” is the most popular destination for visitors to White Tank. A short maintained loop-trail provides easy access, as well as educational opportunities along the way. “The Arch” was formed by a process called cavernous weathering, which begins when water brings dissolved minerals to the rock surface. When the water dries, the minerals form crystals that force small particles to flake off the rock.

For those not expecting a geology lesson, I apologize, but realize that geology plays a massive role in our deserts.

In addition to “the arch,” there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore among the giant boulders.  Those interested in Native American culture, a boulder that is situated a quarter of a mile southeast of the campground contains a handful of small weathered petroglyphs.  The coordinates of the boulder is  33°58’57.15″N 116° 0’42.86″W.  Before visiting any petroglyph site, please read this article about proper etiquette.

The petroglyph boulder, known to some as "The Maverick Boulder," is the large boulder in front on the left. You can clearly see this boulder from Pinto Basin Road.

The petroglyph boulder, known to some as “The Maverick Boulder,” is the large boulder in front on the left. You can clearly see this boulder from Pinto Basin Road.

 

The very badly weathered petroglyphs.

The very badly weathered petroglyphs.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

1 Comment

  • Nice photos Jim! It is a nice campground and much quieter than the big ones. I haven’t seen these petroglyphs in 25 years or longer. I think they were in much better shape when I did. Lots of flaking…

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