Monday, January 6, 2020

Arizona Falls

Phoenix history is very much the history of water in the valley. I like to tell people the story of how Phoenix got its name: settlers dug up the old Hohokam canals and started using them again, so like the mythical bird that rises up from its ashes, a new civilization was starting up again where one had previously been before.

Early Phoenix was agricultural. If you have agriculture, you need water. And if you have as many people living in a place as live in the greater Phoenix area today, you need water. So the history of the canals and the dams is linked tightly with the history of Phoenix settlement.

Today I'm drawing attention to a place that was historically a day trip destination and is today a little taste of history and a little education on the canals and a little leisure spot. That's Arizona Falls, of course.

True to its name, it was once essentially just a waterfall that people would visit, a place where they'd go to try and cool off or to enjoy a picnic. You can see pictures of people in their Victorian garb sitting out there and hear stories of how it was an all day thing to get there from what is today Downtown Phoenix.

Technically Arizona Falls is in Phoenix, but it's really just a hair away from Scottsdale. It's right next to a park and walking trails today. And it's changed. It's more covered up--but you can still see and hear and feel the power of the water.

Signage explains the history of water in the valley and the importance of the canals. Benches provide seating so that you can enjoy a quiet moment--well, quiet except for the roaring of the water. Art, in the form of design and poetry, sets this place up not just for function but also for beauty. In fact, the very point of incorporating art here is to establish the beauty of functional, necessary things--to let them in themselves be art.

Water is powerful. Water is necessary. Water is life. Here, now, and always. That's the message Arizona Falls conveys.

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