Phoenix, Arizona, the state's capital and largest city and the seat of Maricopa County. It occupies desert land along the Salt River in the south-central part of the state, in what Arizonans call the Valley of the Sun. The valley is also the site of such cities as Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, and Glendale. Together, with Phoenix, they form one of the most rapidly growing metropolitan areas in the nation. Scattered, low mountain ranges surround the valley. On the outskirts of Phoenix are large fields of irrigated cropland and several Indian reservations.

The climate is dry and sunny and marked by mild winters and extremely hot summers. Low humidity prevails throughout the year. Because of its climate Phoenix has become a health and recreation center. Many tourists visit the city during the winter months.

Largest communities in the Phoenix area
Phoenix 1,312,045
Mesa 396,375
Glendale 218,812
Scottsdale 202,705
Chandler 176,581
Tempe 158,625
Gilbert 109,697
Peoria 108,364
Sun City 38,309
Avondale 35,883

Phoenix's economy was once heavily dependent on irrigation agriculture, particularly the growing of citrus fruit, cotton, and vegetables in nearby areas; on cattle ranching; and on tourism. Today, manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, service industries, and construction dominate. They have grown rapidly since the middle of the 20th century, accompanying the city's rapid population growth.

Among Phoenix's chief manufactured products are computers and other electronic equipment, electrical goods, missiles, aircraft parts, chemicals, and processed foods. Tourism is still of major importance to the city's economy. Luke Air Force Base, west of the city, also contributes to the economy. Many people are employed by state and local government.

Phoenix is served by two railways and by Interstate highways 10 and 17. Sky Harbor International Airport is one of the largest and busiest airports in the Southwest.

Main Attractions

Phoenix has a number of museums, many of which deal with the art, ethnology, and history of Arizona and the Southwest. Probably foremost is the Heard Museum, which features varied exhibits on the Indians of the Southwest. Pueblo Grande Museum is the site of ruins of a Hohokam Indian community that was abandoned more than 500 years ago. The Phoenix Art Museum has collections of contemporary American and European art. There are several professional theaters, a ballet company, and a symphony orchestra.

The Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo are in Papago Park. The botanical garden covers more than 150 acres (61 hectares) and has cacti and other plants from deserts throughout the world. Annual events in Phoenix include the Arizona State Fair, the Fiesta Bowl collegiate football game, and the Rodeo of Rodeos. Phoenix is the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a professional baseball team; the Arizona Cardinals, a professional football team; the Suns and the Phoenix Mercury, professional basketball teams; and the Coyotes, a professional hockey team.

The University of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University, Arizona State University West, and American Indian College are in Phoenix. Arizona State University is just beyond the city limits, in Tempe. Also nearby is Taliesin West, an architectural school founded by Frank Lloyd Wright.


The Phoenix area was settled in the late 1860's when farmers began reviving the old canals of the Hohokam Indians. The townsite was selected and laid out in 1870. Phoenix was incorporated in 1881 and first reached by railroad in 1887. In 1889 the city was made the capital of the Arizona Territory, and it remained the capital after Arizona gained statehood in 1912. Lack of water and extreme summer heat limited the city's early growth. Increased development came with the construction of aqueducts and canals to bring water to the city, beginning about the time of World War I. Especially rapid growth followed World War II, when air conditioning and refrigeration became readily available.

Population: 1,321,045