Gila Bend, Arizona: History of a Town Built Around a River

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The following article is sponsored by the  abuse lawyer in Gila Bend. Our dedicated law firm is excited to assist you in learning about the area of Gila Bend, Arizona.

A Brief History of Gila Bend

Gila Bend is a small town located in Maricopa County, Arizona. It was originally founded in 1872, however that's not where the history of this town begins.

European Eusebio Francisco Kina first visited the town, previously an ancient Hohokam village, in 1699 on an exploration of the Colorado River. The area was abandoned but sat along the fertile Gila River. Other tribes lived in the area including the Pima people and Cocomaricopa - also known as the Opa. When the river would flood, the Opa and Pima were able to use the high water to irrigate crops. Around the 1820s, the area was deserted once again. 

During World War II, the area was an internment camp where Japanese people were held under the suspicion they may be helping the Japanese war effort.

In 1957, Gila Ranch was established as a camping spot along the mail line spanning from San Antonia to San Diego. During the Civil War, the ranch was a stop for freighters, travelers and army troops.

Gila Bend settlement eventually grew around the ranch station after the war. The area was nicknamed the 'Crossroads of the Southwest"  due to its prime position and roads leading out in many directions. The name comes from the river located just north of town, where the Gila River bends in an almost 90 degree angle around the mountains.


In 2010, there were just 1,980 people living in the town, and 42.8% of households had children under the age of 18 living with them. The racial makeup for the small town was 51.3% White, 1.3% African American, 10.3% Native American, and 32.8% from other races. The town had a median household income of $26,895 in 2000, with a family income of $30,403.

Things To Do In Gila Bend

The town is full of things to do for both residents and those traveling through. There is the quirky welcome sign, roadside sculptures, and the Space Age Lodge. There are also some remaining historic properties in Gila Bend.

  • Stout Hotel - built in 1927
  • Gila Bend Overpass - Railroad overpass built in 1933
  • Gila Bend Steam Locomotive Water Stop
  • Gillespie Dam Highway Bridge
  • Gillespie Dam
  • Painted Rock Petroglyph Site
  • Fortaleza
  • Gatlin Site

The Gila Bend Visitors Center and Museum is a good first place to stop and learn about the town. There are sections of the museum dedicated to the Japanese internment camp history, as well as the many Native American cultures that lived in the area long before being settled.

Gila Bend is located southwest of Phoenix and is about 80 miles north of the Mexico border on AZ-85 after driving through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Continue reading about the history of Salome, Arizona.

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