When most people think about Arizona, two things typically come to mind: the low, hot desert and of course, the Grand Canyon, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. You can read more about them in this blog.
Arizona, especially the southern part of the state, gets hot. Really hot. Some claim that when the temperature soars, you can fry an egg on a hot sidewalk. But I wouldn’t try it. It would make a big mess that you would have to clean up!
The state is located in the southwestern quadrant of the United States. There are five states that surround it: California to the west, Nevada to the northwest, Utah to the north, Colorado to the northeast, and New Mexico to the east.
South of Arizona is another country. Do you know its name? Here are a few hints:
- The world’s largest pyramid is in this country.
- It’s known for its festive food, such as tacos.
- Some people wear a sombrero, which is a wide-brimmed hat. The name is taken from the Spanish word “sombra”, which means shade.
Can you find Arizona on a US map?
What really happened
Arizona became the 48th US state in 1912 and was the last state to join the Lower 48 states. Its history is unlike that of any other state, filled with camels, a meteorite and an Apache hero!
- About 50,000 years ago, a very large asteroid was traveling at roughly 50 times the speed of sound and crashed in what is now Arizona. The impact or crash was so powerful that it created a gigantic crater or hole in the ground, tossing pieces of rock, some as large as houses, up to several miles away. This crater is called Meteor Crater or Barringer Crate and located east of a city called Flagstaff.
- Native Americans lived in what became Arizona more than 12,000 years ago. Spanish priest Marcos de Niza was the first European to arrive in the state in 1539.
- The city of Tucson was established by the Spanish in 1775.
- Before 1846, only a few Americans, such as explorers, soldiers, trappers, and sheep drivers, visited the state. But that changed in 1851 when the US Army Corps of Engineers began building a road for people traveling in wagons, or perhaps wagon trains, on their way to California.
- After the Mexican American War (1846-1848), the United States gained control of much of the southwest, including Arizona. They purchased the land as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which was signed in 1848.
- When the Civil War began in 1861, Arizona was part of the Territory of New Mexico. It fought on the side of the Confederacy, providing men and supplies. Two years later, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill that separated the western half of the New Mexico Territory into its own territory named Arizona.
- Camels have been part of the state’s history since the 1800s. Nearly 100 were brought to the Arizona territory from Egypt and Turkey to create the U. Army Camel Corps and transport goods across the state.
- Geronimo was a famous Native American (Apache) leader and medicine man who was born in Arizona. He repeatedly evaded capture and life on a reservation and was the last Native American leader to formally surrender to the US military in 1886. He was so well known for his bravery that more than 50 years later, World War II paratroopers were known for yelling “Geronimo!” before jumping out of planes.
Stuff you should know
- Arizona is home of the Grand Canyon National Park, where 250-million-year-old rocks lie back-to-back with 1.2-billion-year-old rocks. It’s bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island! Located in northern Arizona, humans have inhabited the area in and around it since the last Ice Age. Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to reach the Grand Canyon in the 1540s. In 1893, President Benjamin Harrison protected it by designating it as a forest reserve. Then in 1919, it became an official United States National Park.
- Although the majority of the state is desert, about 15 percent is covered by some of the largest national forests in the country.
- In 1968, an American tycoon wanted to attract visitors and home buyers to the city he founded called Lake Havasu. So, he bought the world famous London Bridge (all 10,000 tons of it!) and moved it brick-by-brick to this desert town.
- The world’s largest solar telescope is located at Kitt Peak National Observatory. (Read chapter 5.)
- There is enough copper on the dome of the Arizona State Capitol to make 4.8 million pennies. (Pennies are made out of copper; Arizona is the nation’s top copper producer.)
- Arizona is the only US state where parts of four North American deserts can be found. These deserts include the: Great Basin, Mojave, Chihuahuan and Sonoran.
Crazy, funny or just plain weird
- In 1997, thousands of people reported seeing five strange lights silently moving across the state in a V formation. Were they really UFOs? Or maybe airplanes flying near each other? You decide…
- People still tell stories about haunted Arizona roads and highways. Among those was Highway 666, which was also called Devil’s Highway, where a large number of accidents have occurred. It was renamed US Route 491 in 2003.
- Ever watch the Looney Tune cartoons where Wile E. Coyote tries to catch the Road Runner? Well, you just might see a real roadrunner in Arizona that can reach speeds of around 20 miles per hour. Beep beep!
Tell me more
- Arizona doesn’t observe daylight saving time. That means that its clocks never move ahead one hour in the spring or back one hour in the fall.
- The state has lots of rattlesnakes. It’s home to 13 different kinds, more than any other state.
- Arizona is the sunniest state in the country. The sun shines about 85% of the time. It has more sunny days than Florida and Hawaii.
- Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is the only place on earth where the saguaro cactus It’s the largest cactus in the country and can take up to 100 years to grow a single “arm”.
- Pluto, which was demoted from a planet to a dwarf planet, was discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh.
- From the early 19th century to the early 20th century, Arizona and other western states were called “The Wild West” or “American Frontier”. Settlers moved to this part of the country, experienced many hardships, and sometimes fought with Native Americans over land. Many Hollywood movies were made about this period of time. Can you name one of them?
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