Arizona is a state in the Southwest and sometimes in the Mountains of the Western United States. In terms of its size and population, it ranks 6th among the 50 states. Phoenix is its capital and largest city. Besides Utah to the north, Colorado to the northeast, and New Mexico to the east, Arizona’s neighboring states are Nevada to the northwest, California to the west and Sonora and Baja California in Mexico.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT ARIZONA
- Capital City: Phoenix
- Largest City: Phoenix
- Nickname: The Grand Canyon State
- Statehood: 1912; 48th state
- Population (as of 2020): 7,151,502
- Abbreviation: AZ
- State bird: cactus wren
- State flower: saguaro cactus blossom
- Total Size Of The State: 113,990 sq mi (295,234 km2)
Arizona was inhabited at least 20,000 years before written history began. A drought probably caused this civilization to disappear in the 1200s. Native American tribes such as the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, and Apache moved onto the land much later, and 22 tribes still occupy reservations in the state.
In the 1530s, Spanish explorers first encountered Arizona, but until the 1840s, it was a part of Mexico, along with California, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico. After winning the Mexican-American War in 1848, the United States gained control of the land. After becoming a U.S. territory in 1863, Arizona joined the Union as the 48th state in 1912.
Why Does It Have That Name?
Historically, Arizona is referred to as the “place of oaks” or “place of the young spring” by an early Arizona explorer of Spanish descent, Juan Bautista de Anza. More than five million people visit Arizona’s nickname: the 277-mile-long Grand Canyon, each year.
Geographic Features and Landforms
To the northwest, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Mexico, and California border Arizona.
An area known as the Colorado Plateau is home to the Grand Canyon, which runs through the northwest corner of the state. This 6,000-foot-deep canyon, which stretches 18 miles wide, was carved by the Colorado River.
Petrified Forest National Park features 200-million-year-old fossilized plants and animals from the Painted Desert. In addition to the Sonoran Desert, the Basin and Range Province covers the rest of the state.
The Natural World
In Arizona, mountain lions, desert bighorn sheep, and black bears are common. Coatimundi (a raccoon relative with a tail that looks like a lemur’s), javelina (like a pig) and jaguarundi (a small wild cat) are also on the prowl.
Raptors, California condors, and falcons soar through the skies, while reptiles such as Gila monsters and box turtles, desert tortoises, and rattlesnakes stroll through the deserts. Lakes and ponds are home to amphibians, such as the endangered Sonoran tiger salamander.
There are evergreen trees such as pion pines and junipers in the mountains, and deserts dotted with mesquite trees, flowering cacti, and bushes like sagebrush and creosote bushes.
The state produces the most copper in the United States but also silver and gold. Copper from the state helped build Arizona’s railroads in the early 1900s. In addition, Arizona and New Mexico have some of the most extensive stands of ponderosas, which provide lumber and paper.
Some Fun Facts About Arizona
Among Arizona’s most famous residents were Apache warrior Geronimo, who fought Mexican troops and then U.S. troops in the 1800s; civil rights activist Cesar Chavez; and jazz musician Charles Mingus.
Make a stop at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday survived a famous shootout that has been the subject of ten movies.
Those interested in stargazing will want to take advantage of Kitt Peak National Observatory, which houses the world’s most extensive optical and radio telescope collection. Recent discoveries of galaxies 12 billion light-years away were made in part due to their efforts.
As an engineering marvel, the Hoover Dam, built in 1935 and named for Herbert Hoover, can supply water to two million acres! You can tour the giant dam’s tunnels and passageways, walk on top, and even take an elevator 530 feet to the bottom.
You can see sandstone cliffs in the 1991-opened Red Rock State Park.