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Arizona Falls: A historical place that powers the community

Construction Notice: The canal around Arizona Falls will be closed off for scheduled maintenance from Jan. 8 – Jan. 21, 2021. Please mind signage and stay clear of equipment. Thank you for your patience.

Arizona Falls is not only one of the Valley’s hidden gems , it’s also an important part of the Valley and SRP’s history. Located on the Arizona Canal, this hydroelectric generating facility can produce renewable power for the SRP grid.

Aside from producing power, Arizona Falls has served as a community gathering place for over a century.

History and Hydropower at Arizona Falls

During construction of the Arizona Canal in the 1880s, a natural 20-foot drop was discovered along the canal’s route. Located near 56th Street and Indian School Road in Phoenix, the falling water created a scenic place to gather.

The falls were used for picnics, dances and other social events held along the canal bank before the turn of the 20th century. The flow of water through the area also created the perfect conditions for producing hydropower.

The first hydroelectric plant was built at the falls in 1902 by the Phoenix Light and Fuel Company. Shortly after its completion, a period of drought followed by heavy flooding in 1905 left the plant sitting unused for years.

The plant was later rebuilt by SRP and the United States Reclamation Service (now called the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation ) and was fully operational again by 1913. It was among the earliest sources of power produced by SRP, along with hydropower generated at:

  • Theodore Roosevelt Dam
  • Crosscut Hydroelectric Plant
  • South Consolidated Hydroelectric Plant

Learn more about about historical hydropower resources on SRP’s Heritage Map.

Arizona Falls produced power for SRP until the 1950s when the plant was shut down. It wasn’t until 2003 that the site was functional again, this time reviving its role as a community gathering place.

Redesigning Arizona Falls

Reimagining the falls and surround area was a collaborative effort between SRP, the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the City of Phoenix. Designed by artists Mag Harries and Lajos Héder, the space is called “WaterWorks” at Arizona Falls.

There you will also find the the words of Arizona’s first state poet laureate, Alberto Ríos , sandblasted into what is known as the Stoa Deck.

On the back side of the falls, visitors can experience pieces of history by viewing boulders selected from each dam site:

  • Theodore Roosevelt Dam
  • Horse Mesa Dam
  • Mormon Flat Dam
  • Stewart Mountain Dam
  • Granite Reef Diversion Dam

The design of “WaterWorks” at Arizona Falls celebrates the coming together of water, power and community. Just as Phoenicians gathered at the falls as long ago as the 1880s, today visitors can enjoy the calm of falling waters while learning about the importance of water in the Arizona desert.

arizona-falls-phoenix-hydropower-facility-salt-river-project
Sunsets at the falls are an amazing way to end the day.

Hydropower: A sustainable source

Part function and part fun, the power from the falls is generated by water turning the blades of a turbine as it flows downhill. Hydropower is a clean, renewable energy source, and Arizona Falls helps contribute to SRP’s renewable energy goals.

Did you know? The spinning of the turbine at Arizona Falls can produce up to 750 kilowatts of energy. That’s enough to power roughly 150 homes!

In addition to hydropower, the turbine building also features rooftop solar panels. This solar energy powers the ceiling fans located in the deck area.

During the fall, cooler temperatures make it a great time to plan a trip. However, please keep safety and CDC guidelines for COVID-19 in mind if you decide to go in person.

Once on-site, signage will guide your visit. Or you can learn even more with our virtual tour.

Visit Arizona Falls in person or virtually

The virtual tour shares more about the history of the Arizona Falls, the Valley’s canals and SRP. We invite you to use the Arizona Falls virtual tour during your visit or enjoy the falls from the comfort of your couch.

10 thoughts on “Arizona Falls: A historical place that powers the community”

  1. Next time show more pictures! Grew up in the neighborhood. You should also probably provide more historic pictures like local swimming in the falls 100 years ago?

    1. Brad, I too live in the neighborhood, and I agree! We need more pictures. Let me see what I can pull together. Thank you for reading!

    1. Laura, thank you for the comment. We love history too at SRP! We hope to bring you more historical content in the near future.

    1. Mark, there is a parking lot just west of AZ Falls on the north side of Indian School Rd. Otherwise, you can access it via the canal paths on 56th Street and Indian School. Enjoy!

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