La Paz County is located in the western part of the U.S. state of Arizona. The county was established on January 1, 1983, and it is named after the town of La Paz, which was the territorial capital of Arizona in the 1860s. The county’s history, however, predates its formal establishment by several centuries.
Before the arrival of Europeans, the area now known as La Paz County was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Mojave, Quechan, and Chemehuevi peoples. These tribes lived along the Colorado River and relied on it for sustenance and trade.
The first European exploration of the region took place in the 16th century when Spanish explorers, such as Hernando de Alarcón and Melchior Díaz, ventured up the Colorado River. However, it was not until the 19th century that permanent European settlements were established in the area.
During the mid-1800s, gold was discovered along the Colorado River, leading to a surge of prospectors and miners in the region. The town of La Paz, founded in 1862, became a major hub for mining activities and served as the capital of the Arizona Territory for a brief period from 1863 to 1864. La Paz was also an important river port, connecting Arizona with ports in California.
The mining boom in La Paz County attracted people from all over, including many Chinese immigrants who came to work in the mines. However, as mining activity declined, the town of La Paz gradually dwindled, and the county seat was moved to nearby Parker in 1871.
The Colorado River played a significant role in the county’s history, facilitating transportation and trade. The construction of Parker Dam, completed in 1938, further harnessed the power of the river for hydroelectricity and water supply, providing a boost to the local economy.
Throughout the 20th century, La Paz County remained primarily rural, with agriculture, mining, and tourism being the main economic activities. The county’s vast desert landscapes, recreational opportunities along the Colorado River, and the presence of natural attractions like the Buckskin Mountains and the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge have made it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
In recent years, La Paz County has seen some growth in population and development, driven in part by retirees and individuals seeking a quieter lifestyle away from the urban centers. The county continues to cherish its rich history, preserving and celebrating its cultural heritage through events, museums, and historical sites.
Today, La Paz County remains a relatively small and close-knit community, with a population that values its natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and unique history. It continues to evolve, adapting to the changing needs and interests of its residents and visitors while preserving the spirit of the American Southwest.
La Paz County Trail Map
La Paz County National Protected Areas
- Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge
- Cibola National Wildlife Refuge
- Imperial National Wildlife Refuge
- Kofa National Wildlife Refuge