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Art and history along the canals

The fall, winter and spring seasons in Arizona are a great time to get out and safely enjoy one of the greatest perks of Phoenix living — over 131 miles of Greater Phoenix canal trails. When asked to think of cities with thriving canals, where do you think of? 

For most, visions of Amsterdam and Venice come to mind, but there are actually many cities with more miles of canals than Venice — Phoenix included!

From Peoria to Gilbert and Mesa to Tolleson, the sprawling waterways connect communities and carry water — the desert’s most precious resource —from the SRP water system to customers across the Valley. In fact, they have for a long time. 

Experience Valley heritage

In the 1800s, decades of unpredictable droughts and floods plagued early Arizona settlers. A water and delivery system built upon ancient Indigenous canals allowed the Greater Phoenix area to grow and thrive. A group of visionary Phoenix residents formed the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association and pledged their land as collateral to secure a federal loan to build Theodore Roosevelt Dam, and the rest is history! 

Because SRP and Arizona statehood are so intertwined, you will find historical sites along the canal trails. In addition, you’ll enjoy commissioned public art and interesting points along the way. You’ll even discover a hidden waterfall in the middle of metro Phoenix! 

Sightseeing along Greater Phoenix canal trails

Whether walking or biking, SRP and city partners have created ADA-accessible and lit paths for residents to enjoy. What will you spot along the way? 

History

To this day, Greater Phoenix is rich with centuries-old heritage and historical sites, many of them accessible via canals. SRP’s Heritage Map is a great place to learn about and experience Phoenix history for yourself. 

Discover the locations of the last known remaining zanjero house, a historical canal-turned-recreational path in Phoenix and historical waterways like the Central Avenue Historic Ditch as well as the approximate historical location of the Salt River Valley Canal. You may also recognize some other well-known historical sites, such as: 

SRP sites

A lot of the water system infrastructure that contributed to the Valley’s heritage is still around today. Awe-inspiring locations like Roosevelt Dam, the Highline Canal Pumping Plant and the Crosscut Hydroelectric Plant buildings can be admired from a distance. 

If you want to get up close and personal with history, then we recommend a trip to Arizona Falls. At this hydroplant and public gathering space, visitors can see rocks from each SRP dam, enjoy the powerful flow of rushing water that traveled over 150 miles to get there, and even cool off in the mist of the waterfalls. 

While most would consider the location itself a work of art, there’s also a lot of public art to enjoy along Valley canal paths. 

Public art

Some works of art along the canal paths are a little more subtle, while the annual Canal Convergence event puts on an impressive and interactive display of art along the Scottsdale Waterfront.

A newer addition to the canal art scene is the Phoenix Mural Festival. While promoting the arts, sustainability and the vibrant arts community, this festival features the creative works of local artists along the Grand Canal. See the mural map.

Recreate and explore Phoenix canal trails

Rich history and modern-day adventures await you on the canal trails! What will you discover next?

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