Arizona is a state of the United States, located in the southwestern region of the country. Arizona is also part of the Western United States and of the Mountain West states. Arizona is the sixth most extensive and the 16th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix.
Arizona State Flower: Saguaro Cactus Blossom
In 1901 the saguaro’s blossom was adopted as the official territorial flower, and later, in 1931, it was confirmed as the state flower. The saguaro cactus typically blooms in May and June. It is one of the most unique state flowers, and is characterized by having a waxy feel, but fragrant aroma. There may be hundreds of flowers on a saguaro cactus that bloom just several at a time over a period of more than a month. The saguaro flowers have a short life; they open at night and close permanently during the next day. Many of the blossoms will become pollinated and, later in the summer, the flowers become red-fleshed fruits that are enjoyed by the local bird population.
The Grand Canyon is so immense that grand doesn't even begin to express its size or beauty. Located entirely in northern Arizona, the park encompasses 277 miles of the Colorado River and adjacent uplands. One of the most spectacular examples of erosion anywhere in the world. Grand Canyon National Park is a World Heritage Site. The width and depth of the Canyon vary from place to place. At the South Rim, near Grand Canyon Village, it is a vertical mile (about 5000 feet/1524 m) from rim to river (7 miles/11.3 km by trail).
Cold air masses from Canada sometimes penetrate into the state, bringing temperatures well below zero in the high plateau and mountainous regions of central and northern Arizona. The lowest readings can dip to 35 degrees F below zero. High temperatures are common throughout the summer months at the lower elevations. Temperatures over 125 degrees F have been observed in the desert area. Great extremes occur between day and night temperatures throughout Arizona. The daily range between maximum and minimum temperatures sometimes runs as much as 50 to 60 degrees F during the drier portions of the year.
Arizona covers 113,909 square miles, with about 350 square miles of water surface. The state has three main topographical areas: (1) a high plateau averaging between 5,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation in the northeast; (2) a mountainous region oriented southeast to northwest with maximum elevations between 9,000 and 12,000 feet about mean sea level; and (3) low mountain ranges and desert valleys in the southwestern portion of the state. From the White Mountain area across the Mogollon Rim to the San Francisco Peaks lies an unbroken stand of Ponderosa Pine. The Kaibab Plateau north of the Grand Canyon continues this timbered strip into southern Utah.
Manufacturing has become Arizona's most important industry. Principal products include electrical, communications, and aeronautical items. The state produces over half of the country's copper. Agriculture is also important to the state's economy. Top commodities are cattle and calves, dairy products, and cotton. In 1973 one of the world's most massive dams, the New Cornelia Tailings, was completed near Ajo.
Before railroads and technological innovations allowed the extraction of low-grade copper ore, however, silver and gold made Arizona shimmer in the dreams of prospectors and speculators for 150 years. In a world where most of the good things in life were scarce, the promise of precious metals exercised a peculiarly powerful hold on the imaginations.
Marcos de Niza, a Spanish Franciscan friar, was the first European to explore Arizona. He entered the area in 1539 in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. Although he was followed a year later by another gold seeker, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, most of the early settlement was for missionary purposes. In 1775 the Spanish established Fort Tucson. In 1848, after the Mexican War, most of the Arizona territory became part of the U.S., and the southern portion of the territory was added by the Gadsden Purchase in 1853.
Phoenix's modern history begins in the second half of the 19th century. In 1867, Jack Swilling of Wickenburg stopped to rest his horse at the foot of the north slopes of the White Tank Mountains. He looked down and across the expansive Salt River Valley and his eyes caught the rich gleam of the brown, dry soil turned up by the horse's hooves. He saw farm land, predominately free of rocks, and in a place beyond the reach of heavy frost or snow. All it needed was water. Returning to Wickenburg, he organized the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company, and moved into the Valley. The same year, the company began digging a canal to divert some of the water of the Salt River onto the lands of the Valley. By March 1868, water flowed through the canal, and a few members of the company raised meager crops that summer.
Hundreds of years before any of the cities in the eastern part of our country were so much as clearings in the wilderness, a well established, civilized community occupied the land we know as Phoenix. The Pueblo Grande ruins, which were occupied between 700 A.D. and 1400 A.D., testify to our city's ancient roots.
In April 2010, the state of Arizona enacted a controversial immigration law, by far the toughest in the nation. Intended to help identify the deport undocumented immigration documents and authorized police to question anyone suspected of wrongdoing about his or her immigration status. Those without papers could be detained until their status was verified. Opponents of the bill argued that it would lead to harassment of Hispanics, whether they were undocumented, legal immigrants, or US citizens, and President Obama called it a threat to "basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans."