“Scottsdale’s nothing but a bunch of rocks. Nobody would ever live there.” ~Phoenix Mayor Joseph S. Jenckes, 1935
The Phoenix metropolitan area, covering over 400 square miles, is Arizona’s major urban center and it’s also centrally located within the state. There are a multitude of museums in the Phoenix metro area featuring a vast amount of history, heritage, and creativity. Outdoor lovers can take a mountain hike, go on a desert drive, go tubing down the Salt River, or even head to the lake. Known as the “Valley of the Sun,” this region enjoys an average annual daily temperature of 72 degrees with 300 days of sunshine per year and an average rainfall of only 7.6 inches per year.
Phoenix has ancient roots dating back as far as 300 BC, when the area was first inhabited by the Hohokam – meaning “those who have gone” – a people who built an extensive network of irrigation canals but then mysteriously disappeared. There is no evidence of the Hohokam residing in the Salt River Valley beyond 1450. Different groups of Indians inhabited the land after them. The Maricopa Indians are known to have lived in the area as early as 1775.
Whites didn’t start settling the area until after the American Civil War. The city of Phoenix was founded in 1867 by Jack Swilling, who organized the first successful modern irrigation project in the Salt River Valley, and named by Darrell Duppa, who envisioned that “a new city will spring phoenix-like upon the ruins of a former civilization.” In 1889, the Territorial Capital was permanently moved to Phoenix which was conveniently located between the former capitals of Prescott and Tucson.
The growth of Phoenix and other settlements along the Salt River Valley resulted in the establishment of Maricopa County on February 17, 1871. Named in honor of the Maricopa Indians, it was the first new county of the original four counties of Territorial Arizona. Maricopa County’s geographical boundaries were set in 1881 and have not changed since. Maricopa County is larger than seven states and the District of Columbia.
The city of Phoenix has rapidly grown to become a major tourist destination and business center, as well as the sixth largest city in the nation. The Valley is home to Arizona State University, one of the largest public universities in the country. The Maricopa Community College District is the largest community college system in the U.S. Other institutions of higher learning in the area include the University of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University, Arizona Christian University, and Thunderbird School of Global Management.