Wall Street Mill/Barker Dam (Joshua Tree National Park)
These two short hikes share a trail head, making them a perfect pairing. Between them they show off some of Joshua Tree National Park’s signature geology, plant life and history.
If you only have time to do one, pick the 2.2 mile round trip to the Wall Street Mill which receives considerably less visitation than the dam. Follow the signed trail out of the parking area, passing a boulder formation called “Indian Wave.” In 0.3 miles you reach an alternate trail head. Continue northeast from the parking lot, traveling across a plain of Joshua trees with jumbles of pink boulders on the left. Ahead is Queen Mountain, the park’s second highest peak.
Stay straight at an intersection (the left spur leads to Wonderland Ranch, an abandoned settlement and an easy side trip). Another spur on the left leads to some abandoned mining gear. You pass a windmill and the trail bends north into a wash. Soon you reach Wall Street Mill, which operated until 1966 and was dedicated a landmark in 1975. There are also two abandoned cars, one beneath a tall desert oak. A plaque describes the history of the mine.
After taking in the scene, retrace your steps to the parking area and follow the signed Barker Dam Trail north. You soon reach the beginning of the loop. The route to the left climbs some rocks, passes a short spur leading to a boulder with petroglyphs carved inside (sadly, vandals have painted over some of the carvings). The trail bends north and crosses a plain of trees and rocks to reach the dam.
If you stay straight, you’ll head through a narrow wash with a surprising variety of vegetation: yuccas, junipers, pinyon pines and even a few desert oaks. Interpretive plaques provide commentary on the scenery. The trail is a little tricky in spots but considering its high visitation you will have plenty of company so it will be hard to get too lost.
Originally built in 1900 by rancher C.O. Barker and modified in 1949, the dam was designed to take advantage of this unusually moist area of the park. Visitors can view the dam from the rocky ledge above it; due to multiple instances of vandalism and carving, the park has cut off access to the actual structure. As of this writing water levels are virtually nil, but with a wet winter predicted, hopefully that will change and visitors will be able to enjoy the sight of a body of water in the heart of the desert.
Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.