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First among the rivers of Arizona is the Colorado, which washes the western border of the Territory. This mighty stream is the principal tributary of the Pacific ocean, on the North American continent, south of the Columbia. It belongs to that vast system of water-courses which have their sources in the Rocky mountain cordilleras, and drain the continent from ocean to ocean. The great river was discovered on the ninth of May, 1540, by Captain Fernando Alarcon. He ascended the stream in boats 85 leagues from its mouth. He also discovered the Gila and called it the Miraflores. The Colorado takes its rise in the Wind River chain of the Rocky mountains, in latitude 43° 30' north, and some 12,000 feet above the level of the sea. It flows towards the south-east in its upper course, and is called Green river. Below its junction with the Grand, its great tributary from the east, its course is south-westerly until it is joined by the San Juan, above the entrance to the Great canyon. From there it runs south-westerly through the great chasm of the Colorado plateau to the mouth of the Virgin, and from that point to the Gulf of California it winds its way almost due south. The length of the Colorado and its tributaries is nearly 2,000 miles, draining an area larger than New England, Pennsylvania, and Virginia combined. Above its junction with the Grand its waters are clear and limpid, but after passing through the Great canyon they assume a reddish hue, and are as turbid as those of the Missouri. The river is navigable for over 600 miles by boats of light draught, but the constant changing of its channel makes navigation difficult and sometimes hazardous. The valley of the Colorado below the canyon, although narrow, for such a stream, and subject to overflow,

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contains hundreds of thousands of acres of productive soil. The great Colorado drains the entire Territory of Arizona, and every stream and water-course within its borders finds its way to the mighty river.

The Gila river, the next in size to the Colorado, takes its rise among the Mogollon mountains in New Mexico, on the divide that separates the waters of the Rio Grande and those flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, from those that flow westward to the Pacific. In the upper part of its course, the Gila is a mountain stream, dashing through rocky gorges, deep canyons, amid the wildest of mountain scenery. It forms no valley of any size, except the site of old Fort West, until it passes the one hundred and ninth meridian of longitude and enters the Territory of Arizona. A few miles west of the boundary line it receives the San Francisco from the north, a mountain stream bordered by a narrow valley. Some miles below it is joined by the waters of the Rio Prieta. At this point the valley of the Gila rapidly widens into a rich and productive stretch of bottom land, known as Pueblo Viejo, which extends west for nearly 50 miles. The Rio Bonito, a clear mountain stream, enters the Gila from the north, near the head of this valley. The San Carlos, which rises in the White mountains, joins the Gila at the lower end of the Pueblo Viejo valley. It is a fine mountain stream, with a rich and beautiful valley, now occupied as an Indian reservation. Below the San Carlos, the Gila flows through a deep and rocky canyon formed by the Mazatzal, Mogollon, and Mescal ranges from the north, and the Galiuro and Pinaleno ranges from the south. Just below the canyon the San Pedro unites with the Gila, from the south. The San Pedro is a narrow, swift stream, about 25 feet in width, and averaging about three feet in depth. It rises in Sonora and flows north through a fertile valley, with grass-covered mesas on each side, which sometimes rise into lofty ridges. Its course through Arizona is about 100 miles. The Arivaypa joins the San Pedro one mile below old Fort Breckenridge. It is a clear, beautiful stream, flowing through a rocky gorge, with a narrow valley of great fertility.

Below the canyon, the Gila forms a valley from one to five miles wide, which produces luxuriant crops by irrigation. The Santa Cruz, from its source in the Huachuca mountains, after flowing southward through Sonora, making a curve to the west, and passing by Tubac and Tucson, enters the Gila by an underground channel below the Pima villages. Salt river unites with the Gila at the point of the Sierra de Estrella. It is a bold and rapid stream, having its source in the White mountains, and carrying a volume of water nearly three times as large as that of the Gila. Its upper course is through deep canyons, occasionally widening into narrow and fertile valleys. The main branch of the stream is known as Black river, flowing through a rugged, mountainous country. It receives the White Mountain, Carizo creek, Tonto creek, and other streams from the north, above the canyon, and the Rio Verde below that

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point. After breaking from the canyon the Salt river runs in a south-westerly direction, through a wide plain, containing the largest body of farming land in the Territory. The river is fed by mountain springs and snows, and carries a large volume of water. It is about 150 miles in length.

The Rio Verde rises in Chino valley, in the great plateau that stretches south from the San Francisco mountains, near latitude 35° 30' north. It pursues a southerly direction, most of the way through a beautiful and productive valley, receiving in its course Oak, Beaver, and Clear creeks from the east, and Granite creek from the west. It joins the Salt river a few miles below Fort McDowell. The length of the Verde is nearly 150 miles. It carries a volume of water almost equal to the Gila, and is one of the finest streams in the Territory. The Hassayampa and the Agua Fria take their rise in the Sierra Prieta, near Prescott, and enter the Gila below the Big Bend, but they sink in the thirsty sands long before they reach that stream. The Gila and its tributaries drain more than one half of the Territory. The river is about 500 miles in length, four-fifths of the distance being through Arizona.

The Colorado Chiquito takes its rise in the Sierra Blanco, near the line of 34° north. The country around its headwaters is covered with pine forests and dotted with beautiful mountain lakes. It pursues a north-westerly direction, and enters the Great Colorado, through a canyon half a mile in depth, 200 miles from its source. During its journey it is joined by the Rio Puerco and the Zuni river, from the north, and by Silver and Carisso creeks, and other inconsiderable streams, from the south. The upper valley of the Little Colorado is rich and fertile, producing fine crops with irrigation. Williams Fork empties into the Colorado on the line of 34° 20' north latitude and 114° 8' west longitude. The Santa Maria, the eastern branch of this stream, has its rise in the Juniper range, north-west of Prescott, while another branch rises at People's valley. They join the Big Sandy, that has its source in the Cactus pass, and thence flow westward to the Great river. These are the important water-courses of the Territory, though there are many others which in rainy seasons pour their turbid floods into the Colorado and the Gila.


The mountains of Arizona are among the most interesting physical features of this wonderful country, and would require a volume to describe them in detail. It can be said that they show very little regularity, although they have a marked parallelism in the trend and direction of their axis, from north-west to south-east. The parallel ridges of the Great plateau diverge from two points within the limits of the Territory—the Great canyon of the Colorado, and the canyon of the Gila above the junction of the San Pedro. Beginning 40 miles south of the Little Colorado, the San Francisco peak, the highest in the Territory, rears its lofty head nearly 12,500 feet above the level of the sea. The San Francisco may be considered the northern

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point of the great ranges which extend from the one hundred and ninth to the one hundred and thirteenth degree of longitude, and from the thirty-sixth parallel to the Sonora line. That part of this range north of the Gila canyon is known as the Mazatzal, and farther east as the Mogollon and Sierra Blanco. There are also many detached spurs and isolated ranges, such as the Superstition, the Mescal, the Apache, the Pinal, the Gila range, and the Sierra Natanes. Most of these mountain ranges are covered with timber, and the Mogollon, Mazatzal, Sierra Blanco, and Pinal mountains, have a splendid growth of pines, cedars, oak, and juniper. Rich and nutritious grasses cover these mountains and the high table lands adjacent. Many of the ranges attain lofty elevations. The Sierra Blanco is 11,–300, and the Four Peaks, in the Mazatzal range, nearly 10,000 feet above the level of the sea. South of the canyon of the Gila, on the line of 32° 30', the parallel ranges of the Great plateau system are clearly defined, all having the north-west and south-east trend.

The Peloncillo, the Pinaleno, the Galiuro, the Chiricahua, the Santa Catarina, the Huachuca, the Santa Rita, the Dragoon, and Whetstone are the most prominent. Nearly all of these mountains are well watered, and covered with grass and timber. Mount Graham, in the Pinaleno range, attains a height of 10,–500 feet above sea level, while the lofty peak of Mount Wrightson, in the Santa Ritas, has exactly the same elevation. West of Tucson, in the Papago country, are several isolated ranges, of which the highest is Baboquivara peak, standing like a giant sentinel, guarding the weird fastnesses of the Papagueria. The Arizona mountains, which have given their name to the Territory, extend from the point of the mountain, north of Tucson, into Sonora. They are sometimes called the Tubac mountains, and the Atascoso. They are of volcanic origin, broken and irregular. North of the thirty-fourth parallel, and west of the Verde, is the ridge that separates the waters of the Rio Verde from the Agua Fria, known as the Verde mountains.

West of the range are the Bradshaw and Sierra Prieta, that girdle Prescott, and, extending north, join the Santa Maria and Juniper mountains. The Bradshaw and Sierra Prieta are massive ranges, well watered and thickly covered with pine, oak, and juniper timber, with a fine growth of grasses. Mount Union, in the Sierra Prieta, nine miles south of Prescott, attains an elevation of 9,000 feet. In the basin of the Colorado, the principal ranges are the Sacramento, the Cerbat, the Hualapai, the Peacock, the Cottonwood, and the weird and desolate Music mountain, in the north; and in the south, the Harcurar, the Plomosa, the Castle Dome, and the Chocolate ranges. Most of these run parallel to the course of the Great river, with immense open valleys between. They are generally devoid of timber, and many of them bear the marks of violent volcanic action. There are many other detached ranges, such as the Black Hills, east of Prescott, rich in mineral and covered with timber; the Antelope, west of the Bradshaw, famous for its

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gold placers, and Bill Williams mountain, south-west from the San Francisco peak. The mountain system of Arizona partakes of the character of the Sierra Nevadas and the Rocky mountain cordilleras, and may be considered outlying spurs from both. In 43° 30' the Wind river chain of the Rocky mountains divides around the sources of the Colorado. One branch trends to the south in the Great Wasatch range, and, widening out to the level of the Great plateau, reaches the Grand canyon of Colorado on the line of the one hundred and twelfth degree of longitude. A branch of the Sierra Nevada leaves that range south-west of Owens river, and, with a general sweep to the south-west, merges into the plateau and joins the Wasatch at the Great canyon. Our space will not permit us to give more than a passing glance at the grand system of sierras, crowned with their lordly pines, and holding in their rocky embrace vast mineral wealth, which are such a magnificent feature of the topography of Arizona.


© Arizona Board of Regents