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Kitt Peak national Observatory

Arizona is one of the most beautiful states in the United States. It has jagged mountains, deep and colorful canyons, evergreen forests, and flowering deserts. Arizona’s scenic beauty and warm climate attract many tourists to the state.


Arizona’s nickname—the Grand Canyon State—comes from its most spectacular natural feature. The Grand Canyon is a giant gash in Earth’s surface, cut by the Colorado River. It took millions of years for the river to cut this canyon, which is about 5,000 feet (about 1,500 meters) deep. Visitors come from around the world to Grand Canyon National Park.

You can stand at the rim of the canyon and look down at the river below. You’ll see rock formations in a rainbow of colors. The colors change during the day as the Sun moves across the sky. An exciting trip is a mule ride to the bottom of the canyon.

Facts About Arizona






5,580,000 people

Rank among states in population


Major cities

Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa, Scottsdale


114,000 square miles
295,000 square kilometers

Rank among states in area



February 14, 1912, the 48th state

State nickname

The Grand Canyon State

Name for residents


State bird

Cactus Wren

State flower

Saguaro Blossom

State tree

Palo Verde




Where can you find a forest of stone trees and a painted desert? Try eastern Arizona. The trees in the Petrified Forest National Park died millions of years ago. They were buried by sand and mud. Minerals slowly replaced the wood, and the trees turned to stone. Different minerals created different colors. You’ll see petrified (stone) trees in a variety of bright colors, including pink, red, orange, and purple.

The Painted Desert starts in the Petrified Forest and extends north. The hills and mesas (flat-topped rocks) in the Painted Desert look like layer cakes of different-colored stone. Minerals like iron and aluminum create the colors. You’ll see reds, oranges, and pinks as well as blues, grays, and lavenders.


At least 50 kinds of cactuses grow in Arizona. The largest is the saguaro. It can grow 50 feet (15 meters) tall! It takes a long time for a cactus to reach that height, but saguaro cactuses can live 200 years. Giant saguaros form a forest at the Saguaro National Park in southeastern Arizona.

Coyotes, foxes, squirrels, and other desert animals feast on the sweet saguaro fruit. Woodpeckers make nesting holes in the trunk or large branches of saguaros.


Phoenix and Tucson, the two largest cities in Arizona, are in the Sonoran Desert in southwestern Arizona. More than four-fifths of Arizona’s people live in this region, most of them in the two cities. Native American communities first stood where Phoenix and Tucson have risen.

Tucson dates back to 1700, when a Spanish mission was founded nearby. Missionaries hoped to convert Native Americans to Christianity. The mission, San Xavier del Bac, is now a church and a Tucson landmark.

Tucson is a center for astronomy because clouds rarely block its clear skies. Visitors can make an appointment to view the night skies from telescopes at the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson.

In 1870, white settlers founded Phoenix on the eastern edge of the Sonoran Desert, near the Salt River. The settlers built canals to bring water from the Salt River to fields near Phoenix. The canals followed the paths of canals built hundreds of years earlier by Hohokam Indians to irrigate their fields.

Agriculture helped Phoenix grow quickly. On February 14, 1912, Arizona became the 48th state. Phoenix was named the state capital.


Today, most Native Americans in Arizona live on reservations. The Navajo Reservation borders the Grand Canyon. It is the largest reservation in the United States.

During World War II (1939-1945), Navajo soldiers in the U.S. Marines used their language as a secret code. Navajo code talkers relayed secret messages about troop movements and other enemy activities by telephone and radio. The code talkers were used against the Japanese. Japan never broke the Navajo code.


Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans in the Southwest built dwellings in hollows on the sides of cliffs. They entered their dwellings by ladders.

You can see the remains of cliff dwellings at several sites in Arizona, including Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Montezuma Castle National Monument.


To see the Wild West of gunslingers, go to Tombstone, Arizona. The lawless mining town boomed in the late 1800s, after silver was discovered nearby.

Gunfighter Wyatt Earp, one of the heroes of the American West, came to Tombstone in 1879 to enforce the law. In 1881, he took part in a famous shootout against cattle rustlers at the O.K. Corral. Movies and TV shows have celebrated his encounters with outlaws.


Do you know the nursery rhyme “London Bridge Is Falling Down”? Well, London Bridge in London, England, was falling down in the mid-1900s. A wealthy American decided to buy it and move it to the Arizona desert in the 1960s. The bridge now crosses Lake Havasu, a lake created by a dam on the Colorado River.


Near Winslow, Arizona, there’s a giant hole in the desert. It’s called Meteor Crater. About 50,000 years ago, a meteor hit Earth here. It left a crater almost 1 mile (almost 1.6 kilometers) wide and about 600 feet (over 180 meters) deep.

The meteor was much smaller than the crater. It probably measured about 150 feet (about 50 meters) across. But it was traveling at high speed, about 40,000 miles per hour (about 60,000 kilometers per hour), when it smashed into Earth. The force of the collision created the gigantic crater.

 Source: Microsoft ® Encarta