As early as 700 A. D., the Hohokam people lived on the land that would become Phoenix. They created about 135 miles (217 km) of irrigation canals, allowing them to cultivate the land. It is believed that between 1300 and 1450 AD, droughts and floods caused the Hohokam to abandon the area.
Spanish and Mexican explorers knew of the area, but they didn't reach as far north as the Salado River Valley. In 1867, Jack Swilling from Wickenburg, Arizona, arrived in the area. He saw that the land was good for agriculture, but the only problems he saw were lack of rain and good watering. Swilling fixed this problem by building a series of channels.
A small community was created about four miles (6 km) east of where the city is today. The farming community was called Swilly's Mill, which was later changed to Helling Mill, Mill City and East Phoenix. Swilling was a Confederate soldier during the Civil War and wanted to name the city Stonewall, after General Stonewall Jackson. Other people had other ideas for names, until Lord Darrell Duppa suggested the name Phoenix.
The name is the same as the mythological firebird, which is reborn from its own ash after its death. It was a fitting name for a city born of an ancient civilization. Phoenix is located at 33°26'54 North, 112°4'26 West (33.448457°, -112.073844°) in the Salt River Valley, or Valley of the Sun, in central Arizona. It is located at an average elevation of 1,117 feet (340 m), in the northern tip of the Sonoran Desert.
In addition to the mountains in and around the city, Phoenix's topography is mostly flat, allowing its main streets to run in a precise grid with wide and spaced roads. The Salt River runs west through the city of Phoenix; however, it is usually dry or just a trickle due to heavy irrigation use. Phoenix does not observe daylight saving time; however, Navajo Nation lands in northeastern Arizona do observe daylight saving time along with their other tribal lands in other states. Phoenix has an arid climate with very hot summers and mild winters.
The average summer high temperature is among the hottest of any populated area in the United States and is close to those of cities such as Riyadh and Baghdad. Temperature reaches or exceeds 100° F (38° C) on an average of 110 days throughout the year, including most days from late May to early September; highs exceed 110° F (43° C) an average of 21 days during the year. Since 1986, Phoenix has been divided into urban villages, many of which are based on neighborhoods and communities of historic importance. Each village has a planning committee appointed directly by the city council; their purpose is to work with the city planning commission to ensure a balance between housing and employment in each village while also developing identified village nuclei and promoting their unique character and identity.
Phoenix's best-known regions and districts include Downtown, Midtown, West Phoenix, North Phoenix, South Phoenix, Biltmore Area, Arcadia, Sunnyslope and Ahwatukee. By the 1970s there was an increase in crime and a decline in business in the city center; however, crime rates have since dropped but are still higher than state and national averages due to recent kidnappings and human trafficking related to drug trafficking in Mexico. With its wide tree-lined avenues, Spanish-style architecture and surrounding mountains, Phoenix looks a lot like Los Angeles. Like its California counterpart, Phoenix is a metropolis with not one but many centers all at considerable distances from each other; from its historic heart to its vast expanse of land that extends almost from Gila River south to high plateaus and volcanic mountains of north and east into wide valley desert to west.
Growth is a constant in Phoenix's life with thousands of new residents and millions of visitors arriving every year. Phoenix is located near confluence of Gila and Salt rivers at northern end of Sonoran Desert whose characteristic plant is nationally protected saguaro cactus; east are rugged Superstition Mountains large volcanic caldera complex formed about 305 million years ago reaching about 900 meters at highest point; Mazatzal Mountains rise northeast while Verde River flows west entering Salado River east of Phoenix.