Walking in the Salt River Valley, ancient and modern
Walk with me, and tell me what you see. A parking lot, of course. Maybe some electrical wires, a car parts store, a concrete curb. Looks like some river rocks. Let's keep looking.
The sky is that intense blue that I remember from Minnesota, which they call "the land of sky blue waters". There are some wispy clouds, so it doesn't look like rain. And that's good, because this parking lot, which was built (constructed? made? poured?) in the 1980s floods like a lake when it does rain. The 1980s doesn't seem that long ago, and I'm sure that there were engineers who could design a parking lot that didn't flood. Even in light rains this parking lot floods.
Let's keep looking. At this point we'll need to use a bit of imagination, and strip away the asphalt. I really don't know what was underneath there when they brought in the construction equipment. This area was mostly farmland up until then, with really nothing much except the college about a mile away. People that I've talked to remember the farms. I suppose they were growing cotton, although I guess it could have been corn, or just about anything. Most crops grow well in the Salt River Valley. This is all an ancient floodplain that flooded every year, like the Nile, and when the water receded, the land was fertile. We're a good distance from the Salt River, but the Agua Fria is just a few miles west. It's funny that we don't think of deserts flooding, but this one did, a lot.
The Hohokam people lived here. In fact, they lived all over the Salt River Valley, and beyond. They were long-gone by the time the Phoenix pioneers got here. In fact their name just means "those who have gone". They left behind their canals, which sat empty for hundreds of years. And by the way, the Salt River Valley itself was empty when the Phoenix pioneers got there - no one lived there. The Pima people lived by the Gila River, and the Apaches lived northeast. The Salt River was a "no man's land", a war zone.
Sometimes when I'm walking for my coffee at McDonald's I think about what happened beneath my feet, and I wonder if people lived right there? If someone died there, or if many people did? Probably, but of course we'll never know.
Thank you for walking with me.
Image at the top of this post: Looking southeast from the parking lot of the Peoria Station Shopping Center, 67th Avenue and Peoria, Peoria, Arizona.
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Posted by Brad Hall