This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

How to find Swilling's Ditch in modern-day Phoenix


If you like Phoenix history, and you've heard of Jack Swilling, you know that he is considered the founder of Phoenix, and that his company built the first modern canal on the Salt River. Well, it was the 1860s, but modern compared to the Hohokams, who did their engineering hundreds of years ago. In fact, Jack was inspired by seeing the ancient abandoned canals, which must have been amazing.

Of course Swilling's Ditch, or the Salt River Valley Canal, or the Town Ditch, has been gone for a loooooong time. But that doesn't mean that you can't go find it. If you're like me, and like investigating the smallest clues, and looking for the tiniest remains, you can see it. And the easiest place to start is on a satellite view, like Google maps. Here is how:

Find the Celebrity Theater, which is north of Van Buren and west of 32nd Street. See the angle there at the right? Where Randolph Road is? No, that's not Swilling's Ditch, that's where the Maricopa Canal was, but you're getting close. I recommend finding that first, Swilling's Ditch is a little trickier to find. Now look southwest. In fact, find the Circle K there on the southwest corner of 32nd Street and Van Buren. See the empty lot just to the west of it? See the angle running northwest? That's it. No, it's not a canal anymore, it's just a storm drain.

You can determine slight hints of it as it travels northwest and then begins to curve back down at Roosevelt. Near St. Lukes, at 19th Street, you can see that Villa Street was parallel to it, and going west, Taylor follows the same line for a while.

Above image from the Library of Congress.


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