Two Tank
Trek: Perkins Tank and JD Dam Lake

National Forest

Perkins Tank attracts myriad wildlife.

of Williams, a string of fishing holes hiding on the north rim of Sycamore
Canyon Wilderness attract anglers, wildlife watchers, birders, runners and day
hikers in search of atypical forest treks.

Alfalfa blooms around Perkins Tank
Watch for dragonflies darting among reeds at Perkins Tank.

Clustered among
pine forests and sunny prairies along scenic
backwoods roads 20 miles south of town, Perkins Tank and JD Dam Lake comprise a water-centric tour of
the Kaibab National Forest’s southern sector.

A hiker photographs birds at JD Dam Lake.

Although both ponds are stocked
occasionally with rainbow trout, neither is a very productive fishery. Light
visitation along with their locations off main roads make these secluded alcoves
excellent places to view the myriad critters that come to their shores to drink
and wallow. This two-stop circuit combines short walks around waterholes with a
sweet scenic drive for a day of easy exploring. We begin at the northern
most site and work our way south.

A 0.25-mile trail flanks Perkins Tank.
Trees and lush aquatic vegetation in JD Dam lake.

Tank is a 3.5-acre catch-and-release trout fishery that averages 10 feet in
depth. Sitting at a summer-comfortable 6800 feet in elevation, the tiny pond has
been adopted by the Northern Arizona Flycasters (,
a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of fisheries in the
Flagstaff and Williams areas.

Acres of water smartweed cover JD Dam Lake

The organization worked with land management
agencies on projects to remove destructive sediments and install structures that
both improved wildlife habitats and fishing access. Although the tank can be reached by way of a
rough dirt road, a better option for hikers is to park along the main artery access
road and walk 1.4 miles to the trailhead. Because the lakes are located just far enough away from
major recreation sites (White Horse Lake and Sycamore Canyon Rim Trail) and
heavily travelled roads to offer wildlife sanctuary, you’re almost guaranteed
to spot elk splashing about in the reeds if you arrive early in the morning.
One of the first things you’ll notice here is a cacophony of singing bullfrogs
and squawking birds. The ubiquitous croaking and screeching of the amphibious
chorus makes an apt soundtrack for the clouds of dragonflies that dance
among shoreline vegetation.

Bullfrogs (center) serenade at both lakes.
Perkins Tank dam makes for a great viewing platform.
Penstemon and other wildflowers bloom near the ponds.

A quarter-mile,
out-and-back trail traces the tank’s north shore and crosses the earthen dam
that contains the water. Find a secluded
spot camouflaged by a tree or rushes, sit awhile and be amazed at the dozens of
species of local fauna whizzing past.

A dragonfly darts among reeds at JD Dam lake
The marshy backwaters of JD Dam Lake.

Hikers spot a group of elk wallowing at Perkins Tank.
Two walk-able peninsulas jut into JD Dam Lake.

A few
miles down the road, JD Dam Lake is roughly twice the size Perkins Tank. The six-acre trout pond features two walk-able peninsulas
that jut into the lake’s weedy waters. Whereas Perkins Tank is surrounded
mostly by pine-oak woodlands, this pond swells with willows and aquatic plants including
acres of water smartweed and emerald green marshes. Because of its drive-up access, this little gem
is a popular stop-off for fishing, floating a pontoon, wildlife watching and
enjoying a picnic lunch. Pack a pair of
binoculars to view the waterfowl, frogs and wild turkeys that thrive in the
marshy perimeters where shoreline footpaths are sometimes obliterated by flattened
reeds, soggy backwaters and hip-high grasses. Explore with care and steer clear
of anglers casting lines and gaggles of marauding geese.

A beautifully stripped dragonfly at Perkins Tank.


Tank: 4 miles out-and-back

J.D. Dam: 1.2
miles out-and-back



Tank: 6925 – 6815 feet

JD Dam
Lake: 6458 feet



From Williams, go 8.2 miles south on 4th Street (County Road
73/ Perkinsville Road) to Forest Road 110 (White Horse Lake Road). Turn left
(east) and go 4.6 miles to Forest Road 3281 on the right. Park along the road
and hike the road to the lake. Those with high-clearance vehicles may opt to
drive the narrow, bumpy road 1.4 miles to the lake. There’s a restroom at the

JD Dam Lake:

Perkins Tank, return to Forest Road 110, turn right and continue to Forest Road
109 (signed for White Horse Lake and JD Dam). Turn left and go 2 miles to
Forest Road 12 then follow the signs 5 miles to JD Dam. There’s a restroom at the trailhead.