Payson, Arizona

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Payson is a town at the meeting of three roads in Gila County, Arizona, United States. Its location puts it almost exactly in the geographic center of Arizona. It has been called "The Heart of Arizona". According to 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the town is 15,257.[1]


Zane Grey Country

"Zane Grey Country" is a term for the area around Payson, Arizona. This term was most often used in 1970s and 1980s, and appeared in the header of the local newspaper, The Payson Roundup. In recent times it has fallen somewhat out of favor, as the term "Rim Country" has become more popular among locals.


Located at 34°14′22″N 111°19′39″W / 34.23944°N 111.3275°W / 34.23944; -111.3275 (34.239462, -111.327456),[3] at an elevation of 4,921 feet (1,500 m), the town has a total area of 50.4 km² (19.5 sq mi). The Mogollon Rim lies to the north; there are a few small lakes in the area.

Neighboring communities include Star Valley and Pine. The smaller communities of Rye and Strawberry are also within Gila County.


   Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
   54   58  62  70  79  90  93  90  86  75  62  54
   25   27  31  34  40  49  58  56  50  39  30  25


[edit] History

Payson considers its founding year as 1882, at which time it was known as Green Valley or Union Park. On March 3, 1884, the town officially established a post office. Postmaster Frank C. Hise recommended that the town be named after a man named Levi Joseph Payson. Senator Payson was very instrumental in the establishment of the Post Office. In honor of Payson’s help, the town (or quite possibly merely Hise) decided to change the name to Payson.

Payson had its first rodeo in 1884, with Clint Harper being one of the founders. Payson considers its rodeo the "world's oldest continuous" as it has been held every year since.

In 1918 author Zane Grey made his first trip to the area surrounding Payson. He would come back with regularity through 1929, and would purchase two plots of land near Tonto Creek, including 120 acres (0.49 km2) from Sampson Elam Boles under Myrtle Point. Grey wrote numerous books about the area and also filmed some movies, such as To the Last Man, in the Payson area in the 1920s.

During prohibition the manufacture, sale, and distribution of liquor was plentiful. The transactions took place on historic Bootleg Alley.[5]

During the 1930s an effort began to try to get Payson a better road to connect it to the outside world. At that time Payson was very isolated with a trip from Phoenix to Payson taking four to five hours. Throughout the 1950s work on a paved road from Phoenix to Payson progressed and the paving was completed in 1959. A few years ago this highway, State Route 87 (also known as the "Beeline Highway"), was expanded to four lanes.

[edit] Education

Payson Unified School District.

A branch of Gila Community College is located in Payson.

[edit] Recreation

Heading North on Highway 87 into Payson during snowfall.

Ninety-seven percent of the land around Payson is under the jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service (Payson is surrounded by the Tonto National Forest) or by tribal governments. Consequently much of the land is available for hiking, horseback riding, fishing and hunting activities. Tonto Natural Bridge, the largest known travertine natural bridge in the world, is located just northwest of Payson in Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, a unit of the Arizona State Park system. The area incorporates three golf courses, two of which belong to private country clubs. Mazatzal Casino, a tribal casino, is operated by the Tonto Apache Indian Reservation near the south end of the city.

The Payson area is a popular destination for rockhounds. In various areas surrounding the community can be found quartz crystals rivaling Herkimer diamonds in quality, geodes, agate, and onyx. Fossils are commonly found in the Paleozoic strata that is exposed along the Mogollon Rim to the north and west of Payson along State Route 87 and State Route 260.

Payson is known for its rodeo which is the oldest continuous rodeo in the world.[6]

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