Phoenix is the capital of the state of Arizona, the most populous city in the American Southwest, and sixth the largest city in the United States. Founded in 1871, it has become the region’s primary political, cultural, economic, and transportation center. At an elevation of 1,100 ft (335 m), it is in the biologically unique Sonoran Desert. Over time it has merged with the neighboring cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, Glendale, Peoria, Chandler, and Gilbert to form the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area. Exurbs such as Apache Junction, Fountain Hills, Queen Creek, and Sun City are becoming part of this metropolitan area as well. Phoenix is extremely hot and dry in the summertime, so always have sunscreen with you!
- For other places with the same name, see Phoenix (disambiguation).
Why would anybody want to start a city in the middle of a desert? The answer is, surprisingly, agriculture. The Salt and Verde Rivers of central Arizona were exploited for large-scale agriculture by Native Americans as early as the 11th century. The area that now encompasses Phoenix was a center of the Hohokam culture, which built large canal systems and a network of towns and villages, whose remains may be viewed in the city to this day. White settlers discovered the remnants of the Hohokam culture in the 19th century. The city’s name reflects its history as a city “reborn from the ashes” of the previous settlement.
European-American settlement of the area commenced in the 1860s, and in 1911 the completion of the first of several large reservoirs in the mountains north and east of Phoenix insured its success as a center for irrigation-based agriculture. Many tens of thousands of acres were planted in citrus and cotton and other crops, and for many years, intensive, year-round irrigated agriculture formed the basis of the economy. The area is being revived, and trendy hotels, bars, shops and restaurants are making it a place to be again.
Warm and sunny winter weather also ensured a thriving tourism industry, and encouraged many Easterners and Midwesterners to relocate to Phoenix. High-tech industry began to flourish after World War II, and since that time the growth of Phoenix has been explosive. As a result, a population of just over 100,000 in 1950 has given way to a 2014 estimate of 1,537,058 (with the metro area estimated at 4,489,109).
Phoenix has an arid climate with long, hot summers and very mild winters. It has the highest average temperature of any metropolitan area in the States. The weather varies enormously from one season to the next. While it’s not as cold as in the northern states during the winter, it does freeze sometimes, and temperatures in the 30s°F (that’s around or slightly above 0°C) are not unheard of. In the summer, very hot and dry heat is the norm. On the hottest days, it can get up to 115°F (46°C) or more, but never unpleasant due to low humidity. Monsoon rains with lightning occur regularly from July to September during the late afternoon and evening, occasionally overnight also. April is the most ideal month. In some neighborhoods, cicada insects make loud sounds from sunset to sunrise.