Historic American Engineering Record: Arizona Canal, North of the Salt River, Phoenix Vicinity, Maricopa County, Arizona

Author(s): Shelly C. Dudley

Year: 1991


Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. AZ-19 presents a written historical summary and relevant historical documentation about the construction and use of the Arizona Canal, which provides irrigation waters to Phoenix's urban center on the north side of the Salt River and to the northern portions of the valley. The report contains a narrative description, photographs, drawings, and maps.

The northernmost canal in the water distribution system of the Salt River Project, the Arizona Canal is a feature intimately tied to Phoenix's history. The canal helped to develop the Salt River Valley into a major urban center in the Southwest. The Salt River Valley, at the time of the canal's construction in 1883, already had canals on both the north and south side of the Salt River irrigating portions of the Valley. As initially planned, the Arizona Canal would provide irrigation water for an expanding agricultural economy because of its ability to supply water to almost 100,000 additional acres on the north side of the Salt River. Because of the irrigation water, people from across the United States moved to the Valley and established the towns of Scottsdale, Glendale, and Peoria. The canal allowed for citrus groves, which became an important cash crop for export. It also provided water for the first hydropower plants to provide electricity to Phoenix.

The Arizona Canal was constructed between 1883 and 1885; the initial construction spanned 42 miles along the northern portion of the Salt River Valley. An additional 5 miles was added by 1894 at the far western portion of the canal. Following congressional authorization of the Salt River Project, the United States government purchased the Arizona Canal system in 1906 and the Reclamation Service began a program of improvement and enlargement. The Salt River Valley Water Users' Association, which operates the Salt River Project's water distribution system today, continues to operate and maintain the canal, making modifications when needed.

Arizona Canal hydropower plants, although no longer in existence today, provided the first electricity to the city of Phoenix at the turn of the century. Built by private enterprise, two power houses, one at the Arizona Falls and the other on the Salt River Indian Reservation, supplied electric power to a growing population.

Today the Arizona Canal provides domestic water to thousands of homes in the Valley, as well as delivering water to the remaining lands still being farmed. Two cities, Phoenix and Glendale, receive water for its treatment plants at three locations along the Arizona Canal. Many homes also receive urban irrigation to water private orchards and lawns.

Cite this Record

Historic American Engineering Record: Arizona Canal, North of the Salt River, Phoenix Vicinity, Maricopa County, Arizona. Shelly C. Dudley. 1991 ( tDAR id: 393523) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8MC914T

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1883 to 1885 (initial construction of Arizona Canal)

Calendar Date: 1885 to 1985 (use and history of Arizona Canal)

Calendar Date: 1907 to 1909 (enlargement of Arizona Canal)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -112.221; min lat: 33.488 ; max long: -111.691; max lat: 33.634 ;

Record Identifiers

Historic American Engineering Record No.(s): AZ-19

NADB document id number(s): 2202739

NADB citation id number(s): 000000166843


Redaction Note: Sensitive information has been removed from the publicly accessible digital copy of this report. The following figures and/or pages have been redacted: Figures AZ-19-25 to AZ-19-32, and Appendix (pgs. 53 to pg 66). Please contact the archaeologist at the USDI Bureau of Reclamation, Phoenix Area Office to obtain a complete digital copy of the report.

File Information

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