Thousands visit the White Tank Mountain Park each year and many wonder…
Why are they called the White Tank Mountains?
In 1863, when gold was discovered in central Arizona, one of the first roads heading north into that region passed by the eastern side of the mountain range. This road stretched from the Gila River into the new towns of Wickenburg and Prescott. The road followed an old trail that took advantage of an important source of water in the middle of the desert. In the northeast portion of the White Tank Mountains was a natural basin or tank that held water year round. Named the “White Tank” for the white granite cliffs surrounding it, this large watering hole appears on maps and in journals as an important watering place from 1863 to 1895.
The White Tank was the only water for 20 to 30 miles during those first few years of Arizona Territorial history and gives the mountains their name.
Why can’t I go see the White Tank?
The White Tank was destroyed sometime between 1898 and 1902. Heavy rains caused the collapse of the cliff above the tank, filling it in. The exact location of the tank is now a mystery. When government surveyors came through this area in 1894, the mountains were too rugged to be surveyed. The survey does show a road turning off the main wagon road and heading into the hills towards the tank. Today, the mountains boast many smaller tanks and springs, but the original tank that gave the mountains their name, and its exact location, has been lost.