Geography and Landforms:

Arizona consists of two major land regions - the Colorado Plateau to the north, and the Basin and Range Region to the south.

The Colorado Plateau is an arid region of level plains more than 4,000 feet high, broken here and there by mountains and deep canyons. Humphrey's Peak, the highest mountain in the state (12,655 feet), is located near Flagstaff. The deepest canyon, the famous Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, is also found here. While the mountains in this region are forested, most of the land is desert-like with little vegetation.

The Painted Desert, where erosion has left colorful layers of sediment exposed, and the Petrified Forest, the most extensive area of petrified wood in the world are found along the Little Colorado River that runs through the Plateau. Another unique geographic feature in the region is Monument Valley, a broad valley in the northwest. Strange and beautiful rock formations rise from its floor, giving the valley its name.

The Colorado Plateau ends with the Mogollon Rim to the south. It is a 2,000-foot high rock wall that extends from the central part of the state to the Mogollon Mountains of southwestern New Mexico.

The southern half of Arizona consists of the Basin and Ridge region. Mountain ranges interrupted by desert basins run from the northwest to the southeast. The land immediately south of the Colorado Plateau is quite rugged and includes the Gila, Mazatzal and Sierra Ancha mountain ranges. Farther south, broad, fertile valleys separate heavily forested mountain ranges. This part of the region produces excellent crops with proper irrigation.

The state's most important River is the Colorado. It forms almost the entire western boundary of Arizona and, along with its tributaries, drains most of the state. While there are several natural lakes in the mountainous areas of Arizona, all of the state's large lakes were made by damming streams for irrigation and water conservation.


The first white man to enter the Arizona region was a Franciscan friar, Marcos de Niza, who passed through the San Pedro Valley on 1539. He was searching for the great wealth of the Seven Cities of Cibola. One year later, Francisco Vasquez del Coronado led a group of explorers from Mexico in a search for these legendary cities of gold. His expedition visited several Indian villages and reached as far as the Grand Canyon.

Despite these early explorations, the Spanish were more interested in colonizing New Mexico and largely ignored the area. It was not until the late 16th century that the Roman Catholic Church began sending priests to the region for the purpose of establishing missions.

Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit priest, came to Arizona in 1692 and traveled as far north as present day Fairbank. He explored the region extensively and founded 24 missions throughout Arizona including Guevavi (1692), Tumacacori (1696), and San Xavier del Bac (1700).

Spanish troops established the first white settlement in Arizona in 1752 at Tubac. A Spanish fort was built at Tucson in 1776. The fort was constructed with thick adobe walls to protect soldiers and their families from the Apache Indians who roamed the area.

After the Mexican War for Independence from Spain (1810-1821), the Arizona region came under Mexican control. There were few settlers during this period of time, but American and French trappers explored the area in search of furs.

U.S. troops took control of the region in 1846 when Mexico and the United States went to war. Two years later, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the conflict. The Treaty gave the United States possession of New Mexico Territory, which included the portion of Arizona north of the Gila River. In 1853, the United States acquired the region between the Gila River and the southern boundary of Arizona in the Gadsden Purchase.

During the 1850s, settlers in the area asked Congress to create an Arizona Territory, but their requests were denied. In 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, the Arizona region became part of the Confederacy. Many Arizona settlers had come from the South and were sympathetic to the Confederate cause.

Only one major Civil War battle was fought in Arizona. In 1862, Confederate troops were defeated at the Battle of Picacho Pass northwest of Tucson. One year later, the United States Congress created the Arizona Territory. John N. Goodwin took control of the area as Arizona's first governor on December 27, 1863. His headquarters were at the temporary capital of Fort Whipple. The first permanent capital was established at Prescott in 1865. In 1867 it was moved to Tucson, then back to Prescott in 1877, and finally to Phoenix in 1889.

Settlers in Arizona Territory lived in constant fear of attack by bands of Apache Indians. The Apaches were led by chiefs such as Geronimo and Cochise. They conducted raids against ranches and settlements throughout the southwest, but in 1886 Geronimo finally surrendered to federal troops.

During the Civil War, when Union soldiers left the territory to fight in the East, settlement of the Arizona Territory was nearly abandoned. But after the war, great progress was made. The Homestead Act of 1862, the Desert Land Act of 1877, and the Carey Land Act of 1894 turned land over to settlers, requiring that they develop it. Irrigated farms and cattle ranches were established. Miners came to the area for the rich deposits of gold, silver and copper. By 1877, the Southern Pacific Railroad had made its way into the territory from California.

Movement toward statehood began as early as 1890s. In the early 1900s, Congress proposed the formation of one large state from New Mexico and Arizona territories. Arizona voters turned it down. The territory drew up a constitution and applied for statehood in 1910. But President Taft would not sign the bill because of a clause in the proposed constitution that permitted judicial recall - a process that allowed voters to remove judges from office. The clause was removed and Arizona became the 48th state on February 14, 1912. After its admission to the Union, Arizona reinstated the controversial clause.


Manufacturing is Arizona's leading economic activity. The state produces electronics, published materials, processed foods and items for the aerospace and transportation industries. In this rapidly growing state, construction, communications, and technology are important contributors to the economy.

Service industries continue to grow along with the tourist trade. Large numbers of visitors come each year to enjoy Arizona's warm climate, and unique natural features including the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, Monument Valley, and meteor craters. Ancient Native American ruins and Indian reservations also attract many tourists. National and State forests are popular vacation spots for millions of visitors each year.

The mineral wealth of Arizona is great. The state leads the nation in the production of copper. Sand and gravel are also important resources. Less plentiful but valuable minerals mined in Arizona include gold, lead, silver, stone, zinc, and uranium.

Mild winters contribute to a productive farming industry. Arizona supplies fruits and vegetables for markets in colder parts of the United States. Principal crops include lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, and sorghum. But dairy items and cattle are Arizona's most valuable agricultural products.

First Inhabitants:

Native Americas inhabited the area that is now Arizona many thousands of years before Europeans came to the region. The earliest settlements were those of the Hohokam, Anasazi, and Mogollon.

The Hohokam inhabited the valleys of the Salt and Gila Rivers between 300 and 1200 AD. They were skilled farmers who constructed extensive irrigation systems that turned dry, inhospitable land into productive farmland. Some of their irrigation canals were more than 10 miles long.

The Anasazi and Mogollon tribes were the early ancestors of the Pueblo Indians. They established sedentary societies in Arizona in the first century, AD, and raised corn, beans and squash. Around 400 AD these early settlers began making pottery for cooking and storing water, and they planted yucca and cotton that was woven into clothing.

Originally, the Anasazi and Mogollon lived in pit houses, but by 1000 AD they began constructing communal houses of adobe and stone. Large pueblos were built at Chaco Canyon during the 11th and 12th century. Elaborate cliff dwellings were constructed at Mesa Verde, in Colorado, a century later.

Gradually, these early Native Americans began migrating into the Rio Grande Valley. By the time the first European explorers entered the region, the Navajo and Apache tribes had established settlements here.

Books Related To Arizona

Famous Citizens:

Cesar Chavez
Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona. A Mexican American, he founded and led the first successful farm workers' union in U.S. history and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994. His birthday, March 31, is a state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas, and exists to promote community service in honor of Chavez's life and work.

Geronimo was a Chiricahua Apache born in Arizona. A fierce warrior, he fought against Mexico and Arizona as they tried to expand into Apache territory. He was eventually captured and sent to a reservation in Oklahoma where he spent the last 14 years of his life. He died of pneumonia after suffering a fall from his horse.

Carl Hayden
Carl Hayden was born in Hayden's Ferry, Arizona Territory, and served as a US Representative and Senator from Arizona. He was largely responsible for Arizona's rapid growth from a sparsely settled, arid frontier territory to a modern urban state. Working with President Dwight Eisenhower, Hayden developed the funding formula for the federal highway system, which resulted in further settlement throughout the Western states of the US.

Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus, born in Nogales, Arizona in 1922, was a double bassist, pianist, bandleader, composer, and vocalist. He was one of the most important jazz composers of the 20th century. Often compared to Duke Ellington, he was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Capital: Phoenix
Entered Union: February 14, 1912
Population: 6,731,484
Area 113,998
Bird Cactus Wren
Flower Saguaro Cactus Blossom
Nickname: The Grand Canyon State, Copper State
Governor Doug Ducey

Places to Visit in Arizona: (Click the links to learn more.)

Biosphere 2 - Oracle
One of the world's largest living laboratories. The glass and metal shell houses several diverse land types or biomes including the rain forest, the ocean, and the forest. Scientists use Biosphere 2 to experiment on Earth systems. Visitors can explore the 3.15-acre laboratory on a guided tour.

Taliesin West - Scottsdale
Built by Frank Lloyd Wright, Taliesin West is a masterpiece of architecture. The complex of buildings is situated on 600 acres of Sonoran desert. A variety of specialty tours are offered.

Pioneer Living History Village - Phoenix
Go back in time to the late 19th century and tour more than 30 authentic buildings. This historic Old West village features a blacksmith shop, sheriff's office and jail, complete ranch complex, and costumed interpreters including cowboys, lawmen, and Victorian ladies.

Grand Canyon National Park -
One of the most spectacular scenic attractions in the world, the Grand Canyon offers a wealth of activities for visitors. In addition to hiking, white water rafting, and camping, visitors can take advantage of a variety of interpretive programs.