Arizona Falls: A Historic Project in Arcadia
By Mackey Martin
The History of Arizona Falls
Arizona Falls is a historic project located in Arcadia, skirting its southern border. In the late 1800s, Phoenicians enjoyed the wonders of Arizona Falls. They would gather to picnic, socialize and dance near the cool water. There was no air conditioning, so one had to get a little creative.
Arizona Falls was also the site of the first hydroelectric plant in Phoenix. It was originally built in 1902. Rebuilt by SRP in 1911. Delivered power once again in 1913. And it was eventually shut down in 1950.
That all changed in June of 2003. I remember it well. SRP, the Phoenix Arts Commission and Arcadia neighborhood joined hands to transform a historic waterfall into something special and restored the inactive hydroelectric plant. Today, it has become a timeless gathering place for Arcadians and visitors alike.
About Today’s Arizona Falls
Arizona Falls combines art, history and technology to generate clean electricity from the canal’s waterfall. This hydroelectric plant provides enough electricity for approximately 150 homes a year. Go figure, Arizona has always been ahead of the curve where water is concerned. In fact, legislation to build the CAP canal passed through the U.S. Congress as part of the Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968.
That created Arizona’s destiny.
When it comes to water, people are always amazed that Arizona is, indeed, one of the most well-managed areas in the world. No droughts for us, as we conserved and planned. I lived in Texas most my life and water rationing was common. I have been in Phoenix for 26 years now and have never experienced it here. While there are still many Phoenicians, Arizona is a true melting pot of those from all over the United States and world. And water is key to supporting the area’s growing population.
Arizona Falls Features
Arizona Falls, formed by a natural 20-foot drop along the Arizona Canal, is as unique as the surrounding terrain. Trust me, it’s no Niagara Falls. But to people who live and dwell in the desert, it is quite mesmerizing to witness the water rolling over this significant drop of the hydroelectric plant.
The site also showcases the Phoenix Art Commission’s “WaterWorks at Arizona Falls” project, designed by renowned artists Lajos Heder and Mags Harries of Boston, Massachusetts.
- Historic Destination
The main entrance is on the south side; a footbridge connects the north bank to the viewing platform. Everyone gathers around the water seen on three walls in the “water room.” Seating is available on large boulders, where everyone can enjoy the cool and soothing sounds of flowing water.
Through sheets of flowing water, antique gears from the original plant can be seen. Two aqueducts frame the room to create the feeling of being inside the historic waterfall. A shade structure covers stone block seats near a pool of water. Everything has been thought of to make a wonderful environment for visitors. No matter what time of year, Arizona Falls is always a cool and refreshing experience.
The Future of Arizona Falls: Generating Capacity
Arizona Falls generates up to 750 kilowatts of clean, renewable electricity. The roof of the new turbine building and the adjacent shade structure will house solar panels to power ceiling fans on the public deck. The electricity generated by the plant and solar panels is then fed into SRP’s grid.
Arizona Falls: Something for Everyone
Come visit the Arizona Falls and bring the kids, cousins, aunts and friends. Enjoy this wonderful walk back in history and witness how this project married the future.