Maricopa is located 16 miles south of Interstate 10 in western
Pinal County. Over the course of the last 150 years, its location
has changed three times. Its first site was Maricopa Wells, about 10
miles northwest of the present day Maricopa.
No matter what part of the Territory a traveler was headed, he had
to pass through Maricopa Wells. The community was a hub of mid
1850s activities – a trading center offering water, rest and repairs
for heavily laden stagecoaches passing through the Southwest. The
outbreak of the Civil War brought an end to the mail lines and the
building of a railroad a few miles south was the death knell for
Maricopaville, 3.5 miles west of present-day Maricopa, was born
when a junction was needed to connect the Southern Pacific
A railroad linking Yuma and Tucson with a branch line to Phoenix.
Touted as the “City of the Future”, Maricopaville drew investors
from California and elsewhere. However, its prosperity was short-lived.
When Tempe wanted to be on the railroad line in 1887,
Maricopaville was moved to Maricopa’s current location.
Today, Maricopa, which is unincorporated, is quickly growing as
South Mountain residential developments brim over into its rich
Maricopa’s businesses and industries have traditionally been geared
toward farming and ranching with principal crops being cotton,
produce, citrus, cattle, barley, wheat, and alfalfa. The economic
base of Maricopa has been diversifying through companies such as
Volkswagen and Nissan, both of which have proving grounds in the
area. Mobile Mini has supplied approximately 70 jobs in the area.
Additionally, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino with its 700 employees
contributes greatly to the economies of the Maricopa and Ak-Chin
The scenic Estrella Mountains offer desert picnic and rock hounding
areas and petroglyphs. The Estrella Sail port offers introductory and
aerobatic flights and barnstorming rides. Just north is Firebird
International Raceway, featuring three road-racing courses, a drag
strip, and a 120-acre private water-sport lake. Major spectator
motor sports are held on weekends through the year.
The Him-Dak Museum, located in the Ak-Chin Indian Community,
features more than 700 boxes of artifacts, including pottery, stone
tools, projectiles, stone jewelry, carved animal bones, and baskets.
The nearby Francisco Grande Resort has an 18-hole golf course.
Other activities include horseback riding, quail/dove hunting, clogging
and cotton gin tours. Annual events include an antique car
show, Stanfield Friendship Days Parade, Maricopa Stagecoach Days
& Parade, fireworks and watermelon bust, and Maricopa
Agricultural Center Bar-B-Q and Air Show.
Harrah’s Ak-Chin casino offers slot machines, bingo, live entertainment, and dining.
Ak-Chin Indian Community
The Ak-Chin Indian Community, which consists of both Tohono O’odham (Papago) and Pima Indians, is in the northwestern part of Pinal County. The reservation land, at an elevation of approximately 1,186 feet, lies in the Sonoran Desert. State Route 238 intersects the reservation at its northernmost and easternmost corners. The new State Route 347 runs through the reservation, connecting Interstate 8 and I-10. In May 1912, President Taft, by executive order, created a 47,600-acre reservation. In September of the same year, he issued another executive order, which reduced the size of the reservation to its current size of just over 22,000 acres. Ak-Chin is well known for leading the long battle with the Department of the Interior to pass the “The Ak-Chin Water Settlement Act.” Ultimately passed by Congress in 1984, the Act’s full implementation meant that the Ak-Chin Community’s goal of becoming 100 percent self-sufficient was attainable, since it could continue its successful agricultural operations on a larger scale. At full operation, Ak-Chin Farms will cultivate approximately 16,000 acres. The community’s goal of total self-sufficiency is about 98 percent accomplished.
In addition to agriculture, the Ak-Chin Community has developed the industrial park with more than 100 acres. The park is currently occupied by the Ak-Chin Grain Storage Facility, leased to AZ Grains; Walker’s Farm Fresh Meats and Custom Kill Processing; White’s Towing Service; and Keith Equipment, Inc. With 700 employees, the 70,000-square-foot Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino contributes greatly to the economy. The entire tribe participates in the first Eco Museum in the United States. An Eco Museum is distinguished from a traditional museum in that land and territory replace the museum building, and the residents of the area take on the roles of curator and public. This museum acts as an exhibit and storage area for pre historic local artifacts owned by tribal families.
Ak-Chin, located in a lush desert area, is 43 miles northwest of the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, which consists of well-preserved remains of a central four-story building and several smaller out lying buildings constructed by the Hohokam Indians during the 13th century. West of Ak-Chin, low picturesque mountains enclose the scenic oasis on the desert. Remnants of other civilizations that inhabited the basin during earlier times are still in evidence. Major events held on the reservation include St. Francis Church Feast (October); Honoring Past Chairman’s Day (October); Annual Tribal Council Election (second Saturday in January); and the annual Ak-Chin Him-Dak Museum celebration (April). AK-CHIN