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Chloe Effron

25 Grand Facts About Arizona

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Chloe Effron

There’s a lot more to the southwestern state than cacti, arid climes, and the Grand Canyon. For instance, did you know there’s a monsoon season? Or that it’s home to the oldest franchise in the NFL? Feast your eyes upon these 25 facts.

1. The Hopi village of Old Oraibi, located in Navajo County, is believed to be the oldest continually-inhabited community in America, dating back to around 1100 CE. If you’re in the area, don’t expect a warm welcome—the village doesn’t offer tours, and inhabitants are (rightfully) wary of outsiders.


In 1539, a Spanish priest named Marcos de Niza led a party through Arizona and New Mexico in search of the “Seven Golden Cities” that supposedly were scattered throughout the unexplored territory. He returned to Mexico several months later claiming to have found one of the legendary cities, and guided a follow-up expedition that included several hundred soldiers under the command of Francisco Vazquez de Coronado. Instead of a golden city, of course, the party encountered a modest Indian villagenear modern-day Zuni, New Mexico. “I can assure you, (Marcos) has not told the truth in a single thing he has said,” Coronado wrote in a letter to Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain, who had commissioned the trip. Vazquez pushed on all the way into modern day Kansas, while de Niza the “Liar Friar” returned to Mexico, disgraced.  

3. Following the Mexican-American War, which ended in 1848, Arizona was part of New Mexico … the New Mexico Territory, that is. In 1862, the Arizona Organic Act went to Congress, stipulating that the New Mexico Territory be halved, with Arizona operating as its own territory (and a slave-free one at that). Congress approved the bill, and in 1863 Abraham Lincoln signed it into law.

4. Among the names that officials considered for the new territory were “Montezuma,” “Gadsonia,” and “Pimeria.” The name Arizona is believed to derive from the native phrase Ali-shonak meaning “place of small springs.”

5. The Battle of Picacho Pass, the westernmost battle of the Civil War, took place 50 miles northwest of Tucson in 1862. It was a minor dust-up involving just twelve Union soldiers and ten Confederates. All three casualties were on the Union side, including the party’s blundering commander, who defied orders not to engage the enemy. The Confederate victory was short-lived, however, as Union troops soon recaptured Tucson and quashed the South’s hope of establishing strongholds all the way to the Pacific Ocean.


Arizona was the last of the contiguous 48 statesto be incorporated into the union, on Valentine’s Day, 1912.

7. Why so late to the party? One reason was that Arizona was home to one of history’s bloodiest family feuds, which took place in the late 1800s between the Grahams and the Tewksburys. The families actually started out as business partners—albeit in the cattle rustling business—when things quickly turned sour. Over the course of 10 years, the Pleasant Valley War, as it became known, claimed the lives of nearly all the male members of both families, finally ending in 1892 when the last member of the Tewksbury clan, Edwin, shot and killed the last member of the Graham family, Tom. The protracted battle made Arizona appear more like a lawless frontier than a proper state. Some historians believe statehood might have otherwise happened decades earlier.  

8. The state’s population exploded after World War II, thanks largely to the wide availability of air conditioning. Between 1940 and 1960, the number of residents nearly tripled [PDF].

9. After London Bridge came down in 1968, the city shipped it 5400 miles to be reassembled in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The resort town’s founder, Robert McCullough, thought it would make a great centerpiece for his new desert getaway, and made a $2.5 million winning bid. Worth noting: This was only the latest version of London Bridge, built in 1831, not the medieval one that famously displayed the heads of William Wallace, Thomas Cromwell and others deemed enemies of the crown.


There’s more altitude than you think: The state’s average height above sea level is around 4000 feet. There are also 25 mountains higher than 10,000 feet.

10. The world’s first retirement community, Sun City, was built by developer Del Webb just northwest of Phoenix. When it opened on New Year’s Day, 1960, more than 100,000 visitors poured in to see the novel concept, which included five model homes, a recreation center, shopping plaza, and a golf course. Sun City expanded quickly and today is home to 40,000 residents over age 55.

12. Think of Arizona the next time you’re enjoying a margarita. The first barrel of tequila produced in the U.S. came from the San Andres Distillery in Nogales in 1936.

13. Every year, more than five million tourists flock to the Grand Canyon. Ninety percent view the natural wonder from the easily accessible South Rim, which offers free shuttle service and year-round access to restaurants and lodgings.



Cecil B. DeMille planned to shoot his 1914 western The Squaw Man in Flagstaff, but after arriving there following several days of train travel from New York, he decided he didn’t like the city’s mountainous surroundings. So he and his production crew got back on the train and headed up to Los Angeles. They ended up filming in the sleepy town of Hollywood.

15. It’s one of only two states (the other being Hawaii) that don’t observe Daylight Saving Time. Residents turned their clocks back after the Uniform Time Act passed in 1966, but they hated the extra hour of sunlight so much they got Arizona legislators to pass a special exemption bill. While the move has remained popular with residents, it’s worth noting that not everyone in the state follows the exemption: The Navajo Nation, located in northeast Arizona, still observes Daylight Saving Time.

16. The towering saguaro cactus, whose blooms are recognized as the state’s flower, can grow up to 50 feet high, store hundreds of gallons of water, and live to be up to 200 years old. So don’t even think about cutting one down: tthat could land you in jail for a year.



Despite its notoriously dry climate, Arizona has a monsoon season during the summer. It happens when winds shift from the northwest to the southeast, bringing precipitation up from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico that can create flash flooding. Residents are instructed to stay vigilant, especially when driving. So many have tried to brave the elements, in fact, that Arizona has instituted a “Stupid Motorist Law,” which requires any driver who goes around a closed-road barricade and gets stranded in floodwaters to pay the cost of their rescue.  

18.  Arizona is a heavyweight in the astronomy field. In 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto from the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. Today, Arizona is home to the largest solar telescope, located at the Kitts Peak National Observatory.

19. The state capital and largest city, Phoenix, was founded in the late 1800s as a hay camp supplying nearby Camp McDougal. The town grew as a trading post, aided by an irrigation system that utilized channels dug by the Hohokam Indians centuries earlier. In 1881, Phoenix was incorporated as a city, and in 1889 it became capital of the Arizona Territory.

20. Talk about rising from the ashes: The population of the metro Phoenix area is 4.3 million, according to census data, making it home to two-thirds of Arizona’s residents.

21. The bolo tie may still be awaiting its mainstream moment, but in Arizona, it’s officially dapper. The tie became the state’s official neckwear in 1971


Fifty thousand years ago, a meteor slammed into an area southeast of Flagstaff with the force of 150 atomic bombs. The mile-long crater may not be as spectacular as the Grand Canyon, but it’s widely touted as one of the best-preserved meteorite impact zones in the world.

23. The southernmost ski resort in the U.S. is located atop Mount Lemmon (elevation 9000 feet) just outside Tucson. And with 22 runs and plenty of natural snow, it’s no bunny slope.


The Arizona Cardinals are the oldest franchise in the National Football League (well, at least the “Cardinals” part). The Cardinals began in Chicago as the Morgan Athletic Club, and took their name in 1901 after the red hand-me-down jerseys gifted to them by the University of Chicago football team. The Racine Cardinals, as they were known, became the Chicago Cardinals in 1922, and went on to win two league championships in 1925 and 1947. In 1960, the club moved to St. Louis, where they were known as the “football Cardinals” so as not to be confused with the city’s baseball team. After years of on-field mediocrity and declining attendance, the Cardinals moved to Phoenix in 1988.   

25. With its long history of copper mining, Arizona is the only state in the union that elects a Mine Inspector. Hats off to you, Joe Hart.

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
10 Pirate Landmarks You Can Visit
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hungering for a scurvy-ridden romp across the seven seas? We’ve mapped out an international journey that will take you through 10 historic places with maritime yarns to unravel. From a rediscovered wreck to the site of real buried treasure, these locales will set your timbers a-shivering.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1695, Scottish privateer William Kidd was hired by an English governor to fight pirates in the Indian Ocean. But he made one critical mistake. On January 30, 1698, he captured the Quedagh Merchant, a treasure-laden ship flying a French flag. Since England was at war with France, Kidd believed he had a legal right to seize this ship. However, a nobleman who stood to lose his riches on board complained to the British East India Company, which put out a call for Kidd’s arrest. Unable to prove his innocence, Kidd was convicted and hung by an English court in 1701.

As for the Quedagh Merchant, Kidd had abandoned the vessel and its final resting place remained unknown for centuries. Marine archaeologists discovered the wreck off the coast of Catalina Island in 2007. The site is now a protected marine area where divers can read about its history on underwater plaques.


Kristenlea71 via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Born in Maryland, William Augustus Bowles was a British loyalist during the Revolutionary War. While stationed in Pensacola, Florida, he married into the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and, later, fought on behalf of both nations against Spain in the Gulf of Mexico. Bowles would later establish himself as a pirate and self-appointed representative of the Muscogee Nation, and secured Great Britain's support for establishing an independent Muscogee Republic. In those roles, he attacked numerous Spanish ships and was arrested by the Spanish authorities. He escaped from prison and was on his way back to Florida in the British schooner HMS Fox when it went aground on St. George Island at a site now called Fox Point. A historical marker commemorates the Fox’s wreck.


Howard Pyle, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Contrary to popular belief, most pirates did not bury treasure. (People who steal loot generally want to spend it right away.) In fact, the only pirate known to have stored booty underground was William Kidd. Prior his arrest by the British authorities in 1699, Kidd paid a visit to Gardiner’s Island, a spot between the forks of Long Island. Its owner, John Gardiner, agreed to let Kidd bury some valuables there. Accounts differ about what happened next. Some sources say that Gardiner decided to come clean and tell the colonial governor, Lord Bellomont, about the treasure. Others say that Bellomont learned of its whereabouts directly from Kidd. Either way, the loot was exhumed and taken to Boston. The gold, silver, and other valuable items were worth more than $1 million in today's U.S. dollars. Today, a stone plaque marks the spot.


Ejkastning, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1658, a group of buccaneers landed in Lynn, Massachusetts. Most were arrested, but a pirate named Thomas Veal escaped into the forest. Legend has it that a huge geologic formation now called Dungeon Rock became his hideout. Once a spacious cave, it was reduced to a pile of boulders by an earthquake, entombing Veal and his treasure within.

Almost a century later, a spiritualist named Hiram Marble, who believed Veal's ghost had contacted him from the afterlife, bought Dungeon Rock. He and his son, Edwin, spent their lives digging for the treasure but found nothing. Since then, the site has been incorporated into the Lynn Woods Reservation. A door bars the entryway to the rock's interior, which is open to visitors during certain times of the year. Nearby, you can pay your respects to Edwin Marble at his modestly marked grave.


Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress // Public Domain

Lafitte’s origins are shrouded in mystery, but he arrived in New Orleans around 1806 with his (alleged) brother, Pierre. They organized a fleet of smuggling vessels and conspired with potential business partners at a colleague's blacksmith shop on Bourbon Street. Now a popular bar, the building was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

During the War of 1812, Lafitte offered his ample supplies, experienced sailors, and local knowledge to the American forces under General Andrew Jackson, in exchange for the release of some of Lafitte's men then in prison. At the Battle of New Orleans in 1814-15, Jackson's and Lafitte's forces helped repel the British attack, and the two Lafitte brothers both received federal pardons.



Soon after the Battle of New Orleans, the city's elites grew tired of tolerating the Lafittes. In 1817, Jean Lafitte decamped to Galveston, Texas, with seven ships and a few dozen followers. They established a town called Campeche with its own boarding house, taverns, and courts, while continuing to prey on Spanish ships in the gulf and operating a large slave market. In 1821, the U.S. government ordered them to clear out. Nothing can be said with certainty about Lafitte's post-Galveston exploits. Just like his origins, Jean Lafitte’s fate remains the stuff of speculation.

A relic from his time in Galveston can be found at 1417 Avenue A, where Maison Rouge, Lafitte’s home and fortress, once stood. The grounds are protected by a chain-link fence, which also surrounds the remnants of a second building that was built on top of Maison Rouge’s foundation in 1870. Learn more at Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast, a local attraction which focuses on Lafitte’s life and deeds.


m kasahara, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Blackbeard—whose real name was either Edward Teach, Edward Thatch, or some variant thereof—settled in Bath, North Carolina, for a brief period of quasi-retirement beginning in 1718. His place of residence was reportedly somewhere on Plum Point, an outcropping which cuts into Bath Creek. Despite his track record of plundering and theft, he was constantly getting dinner invitations from curious families. According to regional lore, he paid multiple visits to the Hammock House, an elegant white building thought to be the oldest surviving house in Beaufort, North Carolina. This city is also home to a gigantic Blackbeard statue on U.S. Highway 70. Beaufort’s branch of the North Carolina Maritime Museum contains numerous Blackbeard artifacts.


JialiangGao, Wikimedia Commons // GFDL

In the Age of Sail, pirates operated in nearly all of the world's oceans. Île Sainte-Marie, near Madagascar, was a magnet for pirates back in the 17th and 18th centuries. The island had plentiful fresh fruit to prevent scurvy and convenient natural harbors for safe anchorages. So many crews visited the island regularly that trading posts run by and for pirates became a vital part of the local economy. In its heyday, more than 1000 pirates lived on the island. A great many now lay buried in a cemetery near Ambodifotatra, Île Sainte-Marie’s biggest city. The 30 on-site tombstones of pirates can be identified because they were given etched-in skulls, crossbones, or both.


Daniel Defoe, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Typically cited as the most successful pirate of all time, Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts was born in the Welsh village of Casnewydd-Bach in 1682. In 1719, the crew of the slave ship he worked on elected Roberts, an experienced navigator and seafarer, as their new captain. Roberts really seemed to like the name Royal Fortune, which he gave to multiple ships. He also authored a pirate’s code of conduct for his crew in 1721.

The dreaded “Black Bart” would seize more than 400 ships before he died in battle on February 10, 1722. His hometown acknowledges its native son with a memorial stone on the village green.


Charles Ellms, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Our adventure ends with a visit to a place that once displayed Blackbeard’s severed head [PDF]. North Carolina's governor, Charles Eden, granted the pirate a pardon in exchange for a hefty share of his loot, which upset the colony's wealthy planters. The elites asked Virginia's governor, Alexander Spotswood, to get rid of Blackbeard permanently. Spotswood sent a naval force led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard to engage the pirate's crews in combat. Maynard caught Blackbeard by surprise in North Carolina's Ocracoke Inlet, and a great battle ensued, with Maynard coming out on top. Blackbeard was killed in the fight and Maynard mounted the pirate's head on the bowsprit of his ship on their way back to Virginia. Later it was suspended from a pole at Tindall’s Point, at the confluence of the James and Hampton rivers, where it served for several years as a warning to anyone else with piratical designs. Tindall Point is now called Blackbeard’s Point.


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