Pinal County

A monster Saguaro ( Carnegiea gigantea) - Photo by Sister Cecilia Joseph Wight
A monster Saguaro ( Carnegiea gigantea) – Photo by Sister Cecilia Joseph Wight

Pinal County, located in the central part of the U.S. state of Arizona, boasts a rich and diverse history that has shaped the region into what it is today. From the ancient Native American cultures that thrived in the area to the arrival of European explorers and the subsequent development of mining and agriculture, Pinal County’s history is a captivating tale of resilience, growth, and cultural exchange.

Prehistoric Period

The lands that now comprise Pinal County have been inhabited for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence reveals the presence of Native American cultures, including the Hohokam, Salado, and Tohono O’odham tribes. These ancient peoples developed advanced irrigation systems, constructed intricate pottery, and engaged in trade networks that spanned across the region.

Spanish Exploration and Mexican Rule

The first Europeans to explore the area were Spanish conquistadors, including Francisco Vázquez de Coronado in 1540 and Father Eusebio Kino in the late 17th century. Spanish influence grew during the colonization of Mexico, and Pinal County became part of the Spanish province of Alta California. Following Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821, the region came under Mexican control until the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848.

Territorial Period and Mining Boom

Under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Pinal County, along with the rest of Arizona, was ceded to the United States. The Gadsden Purchase in 1853 further expanded American control in the area. The mid-19th century witnessed a mining boom in Pinal County, with the discovery of rich mineral deposits such as copper, silver, and gold. Towns like Florence, Pinal City, and Casa Grande emerged as mining centers, attracting prospectors from across the country.

Growth and Development

The establishment of a military post at Camp Florence in 1866 and the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in the late 1870s contributed to the growth and development of Pinal County. The county seat was moved from Pinal City to Florence in 1875, solidifying its position as the region’s administrative and economic hub. Agriculture also flourished, aided by the construction of irrigation canals, and cotton, citrus, and cattle ranching became important industries.

Water Projects and Modernization

Pinal County faced significant challenges related to water scarcity and the need for irrigation to support agriculture. The construction of the San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District in the early 20th century, along with the completion of the Coolidge Dam in 1928, brought much-needed water resources to the area. These water projects facilitated further agricultural expansion and transformed Pinal County into a major producer of cotton, alfalfa, and other crops.

In recent decades, Pinal County has experienced rapid population growth and urbanization. The construction of the Phoenix metropolitan area’s suburbs, including cities like Casa Grande, Maricopa, and Apache Junction, has attracted residents seeking a mix of affordable housing, job opportunities, and a high quality of life. Today, Pinal County is recognized for its diverse economy, encompassing industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and agriculture.

Pinal County’s history is a testament to the resilience of its people and their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. From the ancient Native American cultures to the Spanish colonization, the mining boom, and the modernization efforts, each chapter in Pinal County’s story has left its mark on the region’s landscape and identity. As the county continues to evolve, it remains rooted in its past while embracing the opportunities of the present and future.

Pinal County Trail Map

Pinal County National Protected Areas

  • Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
  • Coronado National Forest 
  • Hohokam Pima National Monument
  • Ironwood Forest National Monument 
  • Sonoran Desert National Monument 
  • Tonto National Forest