In a desert, there is little more precious than water. The early inhabitants of the area, the Hohokam , were keenly aware of what an asset they had with the Salt River. At that time, without dams, the river flowed freely, although flow was heavier in the spring.
The river, a tributary of the Gila River, which starts in New Mexico, and eventually winds up at the Colorado River near Yuma., benefits from one of the largest watersheds in the country (watershed is the area from which a river draws its water,collecting snow and rain which drains to the river).
The Hohokam used the Salt River to supply numerous canals they built to irrigate their crops,eventually totaling 135 miles of waterway. They grew mostly maize(corn), beans, squash, cotton, and tobacco. Evidence of this can be seen at the Pueblo Grande Ruins in downtown Phoenix..Although the Hohokam lived in the Valley of the Sun for 7 centuries, they disappeared around 1400, possibly because of a lengthy drought. The name “Ho Ho Kam” means “the people who have gone” in the O’odham language.
The Salt River would be the focal point of modern development in the area, which will be discussed in the next segment.