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Area History

Phoenix has a rich natural history and has some of the most populated and interested museums in the southwest because of it. Where the city stands today was once a Native American settlement. The tribe was the Hohokam, who were ingenious and created a number of canals for irrigation, some of which are still used today. The Hohokam disappeared in the mid-15th century, though historians are unsure what happened to them.

Phoenix was flooded with conquistadors in the 1500's who brought in their methods of farming and their cattle, and were soon followed by farmers, miners, and traders. The settlers and the remaining Native Americans got along in relative peace, or as much peace as was possible in those days, until about the mid-19th century when the Native Americans realized that the settlers were, little by little and sometimes in big gulps, taking over their native lands. That began the resettlement of the tribes to reservations by the U.S. government and military forces.

Phoenix was first called by that name in 1867 when a settler named it after the mythical bird that rises from its ashes. He was one of the settlers rebuilding some of the original Hohokam irrigation canals. In named the city, he predicted that from the meager beginnings and ashes of the Hohokam, a great city would rise up. The city was incorporated in 1881 and quickly became a major trading center and the capital of first the Arizona territory and then the state in 1912.

The Phoenix area was a frontier town known for rowdy saloons, outlaws and gambling, but with the railroad came order and population increased with each passing year. The Southern Pacific Railroad, the Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River and the Central Arizona Project aqueduct system, all brought in the early 20th century, helped make the area grow and make great strides in industrial and agricultural development.

Now a major metropolitan area, the city still hangs on to its history with museums and a number of parks and reserves designed to preserve the desert culture and history that mark the area and make it unique. With the Sonoran Desert, a huge number of mountains fit for hiking and exploration, the area is popular with tourists and locals alike. Natural formations like the Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park and Parker Canyon, as well as all the preserves mean that the area is still a mix of the city life in urban areas, and that back-to-nature camping, hiking, and outdoor atmosphere only a few miles away.