This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Why the Salt River in Phoenix is called that


If you've ever wondered why the Salt River that flows through Phoenix is called that, the answer is simple - the taste of the water was horrible. A better description of the water that flows through a desert wash is "brackish". I suppose they could have called it "The Brackish River", or the "Just Plain Nasty Taste River", but they settled on The Salt River.

And the solution to this salinity (to use the technical term) which is bad for both people and plants, was to get the water before it flowed too far into the desert. And so, in 1883 pioneers in Phoenix diverted the water way up north of Apache Junction and brought it down through a canal called the Arizona Canal. Then they connected that canal with the old Grand Canal by means of a "crosscut" canal. At that point they stopped taking water directly from the local Salt River, and instead collected it when it was still mostly snowmelt and rainfall. If you've ever tubed down the Salt River, you know that the water is snowmelt and is icy cold, even in the summer.

The project worked! And to this day, except for a tiny amount sent down for decorative purposes at Tempe Town Lake, the Salt River flows from The Granite Reef Dam and through the canals of Phoenix. And without all that nasty salt in the water, crops grew better and the valley grew.

There have been attempts to try to change the name of The Salt River, which really isn't very glamorous, but names are hard to change. Changing the flow of the river took the salt out of "The Salt River", though.

This project, by the way, is called SRP, The Salt River Project. A pretty darn successful project, I'd say!


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