The Heart of Arizona
Centrally located in Arizona, Gila County offers a unique blend of natural beauty, history, culture and economics in a location convenient to both Phoenix and Tucson. Settlers first arrived in the 1870s to mine silver and raise cattle on the region’s rich grazing lands, while today the county’s welcoming climate, abundant outdoor recreation opportunities and rich cultural life attract visitors and new residents from around the country.
Mining has been the lifeblood of Gila County’s economy for over 100 years, with two of Arizona’s 10 largest copper mines located in the county. Ranching also continues to play a central economic role and exert a strong cultural influence. Tourism and outdoor recreation make up the third major sector of the county’s economy. Gila County’s 4,796 square miles, spanning landscapes of forested mountains, desert panoramas, and lakes and rivers, include some of the top recreation spots in Arizona.
Attractions in Gila County include the Salt River Canyon, Tonto National Monument, Mogollon Rim, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Coolidge Dam, Roosevelt Dam and Roosevelt Lake. The magnificent Tonto National Forest covers 56% of Gila County, offering beautiful scenery, hiking, wildlife viewing, boating and fishing easily accessible to the county’s population centers.
Globe, the county seat, has played an illustrious role in Arizona’s history. Many of the influential men and women who shaped our state have hailed from Globe, including George W.P. Hunt, Arizona’s first governor; Rose Perica Mofford, Arizona’s first female governor; and Sarah Herring Sorin, the first female lawyer to practice in Arizona. Globe is a Main Street City with a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Neighbor to Globe is the town of Miami, whose rich copper deposits have contributed to Arizona’s economic wealth for over a century. A quiet town with a population of 1,800, Miami is today home to some of Arizona’s largest copper operations and is the site of one of only three copper smelters in the United States.
Located 20 miles south of Globe on Highway 70, the San Carlos Apache Reservation offers unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities, as well as a window on Native American culture. The reservation contains more than 1.8 million acres (covering 38% of Gila County) and is home to more than 10,000 people who enjoy a culture that combines modern influences with ancient traditions. Ranching, agriculture, forestry, mining, a casino, and the sale of hunting, fishing, and recreation permits provide revenue for the tribe.
Roosevelt Lake‘s sandy beaches, water sports and cooler climate have made it a favorite vacation destination for generations of Arizonans. Named for a legendary outdoorsman and US President, the lake offers 128 miles of shoreline and over 33 square miles of water when full, providing endless options for recreation year round. Visitors praise Roosevelt Lake for being an oasis in the desert that’s fun, clean, easy to get to, and uncrowded.
Just a few miles north of Roosevelt Lake, the Tonto Basin offers a place to get away from it all—and get to recreational possibilities across western Gila County. The Tonto Basin serves as a hub for outings ranging from mountain biking around Payson, to boating at Roosevelt Lake, to hiking in the Tonto National Forest, and much more.
Pleasant Valley, near Tonto Basin, was the site of the legendary Graham-Tewksbury feud of the 1880s. The feud began when the Graham family accused members of the Tewksbury family of stealing and rebranding the cattle of another rancher. Hostility between the two families escalated into bloodshed that claimed dozens of lives and ignited tempers between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers for years to come.
Among the majestic mountains of central Arizona nestle the breathtaking and serene town of Payson and its neighbor, Star Valley. At an elevation of 5,000 feet, the area enjoys a mild climate where residents and visitors alike can enjoy cross-country skiing in the winter and pleasant temperatures throughout the year while they hunt, fish, camp or hike.
Seemingly a million miles away from it all yet at the heart of Arizona mining and railroad history, Hayden and Winkelman serve as a gateway for outdoor recreation in southern Gila and neighboring counties. An easy drive from Phoenix or Tucson brings visitors to these adjacent communities surrounded by ghost towns and beautiful desert scenery with mountain ranges as a backdrop.
For well over a century Gila County has played an important role in Arizona’s history and economy. Today, the county continues to flourish as a center of mining, ranching, outdoor recreation and tourism, as its traditional economic drivers continue to meet the needs of the twenty-first century world.