Water in Needles District in early April this year?


Mar 1, 2015
Hello all, I am going backpacking in the Needles District in early/mid April (less than a month and a half away!) and was wondering what to expect in terms of water availability. I have been to the Needles twice, but once was a through-hike of Salt Creek, which had plenty of water, while the other was a quick in-and-out to Chesler Park in the Fall (which had no water so I just carried all my water in). This time, we will be have the following itinerary:
  • First two nights: EC3 campsite (Elephant Canyon)---I read that there is sometimes water near there
  • Third night: Lost Canyon (LC2)---I read that there is usually water there during the Spring
I realize that it's only 3-4 miles or so in to EC3 from the trailhead, so many would recommend just carrying all your water; however, I have battled with both heel pain (plantar fasciitis) and knee pain over the years, so I really need to keep my pack weight down as much as possible. Can anyone who knows the area well please give more details about the water sources around Elephant Canyon (especially up by the campsites)? I've read that it's been a wet winter so far, so I'm hoping that means we're in luck, but I'm thinking this may be the kind of thing that depends more on recent weather immediately before the trip? If so, how far in advance will I probably be able to know the water situation? Any tips or advice is greatly appreciated!
No one here is going to be able to predict anything more than you already know. The wet winter will certainly help. The rangers will be able to tell you the condition of sources the day you start your hike. From what I understand, the source in upper Elephant Canyon takes quite a bit to dry it out, so I can't imagine it won't be fine this spring.
Thanks Nick. I was hoping someone might chime in and say something like, "I've been there a dozen times in April, and there has always been good water in such-and-such location near EC3". Sounds like I'll wait until the week of though. I've read conflicting reports about the water availability. Some say if any water is there, it's nasty; others say there's good water to be found, but I haven't found any good solid details on exactly where---if anyone has detailed info on this, please let me know.

I called the ranger before to ask about this (I believe they are still currently closed---I'll call right before our trip like you suggested). They said to just pack it in, because if there is good water there, we should save it for the wildlife. Now, I'm all in favor of packing out all my trash, and even my poo when needed, and I always comply with bear canister rules and fire bans when applicable, and I support not swimming/washing in the water sources and such... but saving the drinking water for the animals is a little more LNT than I'm willing to go at this point!
Water typically is not "nasty" in April. "Springs" on map in headwater forks of Elephant should be good to go this April. Haven't been there "dozens" of times but each time in April there's been water. I've seen ample water near LC2 and LC3 in April. I really, really doubt you'll be carrying all your water. Worst case, walk a different trail out in a day hike loop and pick up more at the TH and go back in. The wildlife argument seems excessive to me. Backpacking is so tightly regulated in the heart of the Needles I can't see the volume of use affecting supply that much. If someone wants to elaborate a rationale I am all ears and willing to listen to the argument.
I just got back from the Needles (late March) and there was more water than I've seen in the past. There was water just below EC3 and it was flowing plentifully in Sqaw, Big Srping, and Lost Canyons. We never carried more than 2 liters except when we went in to Chesler Park.
Awesome, thanks for the feedback! When you say there was water just below EC3, do you think there was enough such that there'll still be plenty next week? (I know it's hard to tell exactly; I'm just trying to gauge if there was a little vs a lot there)
No guarantees, but I would bet that it will be there for some time to come. I'm going back toward the end of April and I'm counting on it still being available then. It's a somewhat stagnant pool but it's been there every time I've gone and with proper filtering it has always worked for me. See below for an image of the location from Google Maps.


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Perfect, thanks a ton! When you say "proper filtering", do you think a Sawyer Squeeze filter would be sufficient? I've heard that it's not the best for silty water sources in the desert, but my Sawyer has always been fine for me so far (I've only done a few desert trips with it, though, and they have all had better springs). I'll bring some tablets and some coffee filters for pre-filtering as well just in case. Also, does the water taste bad? (should I bring some powdered mix or something to make it taste better?)
Sawyer Squeeze is fine. It's what I used and the water tastes just fine. The water sources in the Needles that I've come across weren't really silty either.
Thanks again all. There was water all over in the needles (compared to normal anyway). What an amazing area!