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Understanding the "Starts near Paradise Valley Mall and goes to the Salt River" Wash, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe, Arizona


If you've ever driven along Hayden Road in Scottsdale, you've seen a greenbelt that parallels it to the west. I've been fascinated by it for years, but I've never really given it a name in my mind. I'm told by people who know that it's the Indian Bend Wash. And I'm still having trouble with that name, as it seems to imply that it's only around Indian Bend Road, you know, just west of the Talking Stick Casino.

To me, the wash extended along Hayden Road to McClintock Ranch, where I had a client in the early eighties that I would visit when I lived in Tempe. And that's kind of way things are to people - they exist for what they know. And I sure didn't know much! And I'm trying to learn more about that wash.

Today I got an email from one of my PhD (Phoenix History Detectives) who is familiar with where it actually starts, which is east of the Phoenix Mountains, at about 32nd Street and Thunderbird. Take a look at a satellite view and you can run your finger along a greenbelt starting there, going southeast, and then south all of the way to the Salt River.

This wash, which I am now calling the "Starts near Paradise Valley Mall, goes through Scottsdale and Tempe and into the Salt River Wash" doesn't even hit Indian Bend Road for several miles. Of course Indian Bend Road is the area that has flooded the most historically, because of the Arizona Canal, and that's where those big cool sculptures of horses are, but the wash itself is much bigger than most people suspect. And like all washes, when it floods it makes a mess.

The cheapest solution to the flooding problem, of course, is to simply pour concrete, like they did in many places of Los Angeles. But this wash flows through some of the most beautiful places in the Valley of the Sun, so that way of thinking isn't considered for a moment. Don't worry about that.

Engineering combined with aesthetics is something that the greater Phoenix area has been doing brilliantly for decades. I often point to things like the Thunderbird Paseo Park, or Tres Rios, and most people just see parkland, not a Diversion Channel, or a Water Treatment plant. Phoenix has hidden its engineering well. The next time you walk along the linear park on 48th Street between Indian School Road and McDowell, consider that you're on top of a storm drain. The park near me, the Sahuaro Ranch, is a cleverly-disguised water drainage basin. There are a lot of places like that in the Phoenix metro area, and if you've never seen them, well, that's the point.

I respect the historical name of Indian Bend Wash, and I know that I can't call it the "Starts near Paradise Valley Mall, goes through Scottsdale and Tempe and into the Salt River Wash", but for now I'm going to call it the Scottsdale Wash. It spends most of its time there, anyway.

The track record of the engineers and the designers around Phoenix has been excellent, but of course you'll never please everyone. I'll let you know what I find out.

Image at the top of this post: the "Starts near Paradise Valley Mall, goes through Scottsdale and Tempe and into the Salt River Wash" in South Scottsdale. You're looking east at McDowell and Miller.

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History Adventuring posts are shared there daily including "then and now" photos, billboards, aerials, videos, and super high-definition photos of historic Phoenix, Arizona. Discounts for seniors, students, teachers, and veterans.