Cottonwood is the retail and services center located about 50 miles south of Flagstaff in the picturesque Verde Valley. The community was established in 1879 and incorporated in 1960. In 1874, soldiers from Camp Verde were stationed at an adobe house where Cottonwood stands today. Settlers began moving in, developing a community that took its name from a circle of 16 cottonwood trees near the Verde River. In Yavapai County, Cottonwood is near the geographic center of Arizona at an elevation of 3,300 feet. The city is about 101 miles north of Phoenix. Due to its location in the center of Verde Valley, Cottonwood continues to thrive. Cottonwood serves as the trading center for the Verde Valley, with a wide variety of retail establishments, professional services and manufacturing concerns. Marcus J. Lawrence Hospital is one of the finest diagnostic and treatment centers in Northern Arizona. Other major employers include Kachina Communications, Griffith Enterprises, Phelps Truss Co., Tacstar Industries and Phoenix Cement Company in nearby Clarkdale.


The travel and tourism industry is also a significant factor in Cottonwood's economic profile. Nearby national forests, state parks, national monuments and wilderness areas attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Many visit Cottonwood because of its proximity to these attractions. The Verde River flows through Cottonwood supporting one of the state's best riparian habitats. Riverfront Park and Dead Horse Ranch State Park provide access to the Verde River Greenway. The Old Town area, a popular collection of arts and crafts shops, is located on historic Main Street. In the immediate vicinity are many diverse attractions. Tuzigoot National Monument, a 550-year-old Sinagu an Indian ruin, and Montezuma Castle National Monument, an 11th-century cliff dwelling, provide insight into the area's pre-Columbian past. Jerome is a historic mining town. The Verde Canyon Railroad provides views into the remote Sycamore Canyon Wilderness and has become a popular excursion. Natural attractions abound with the red rocks of Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon to the north.


The 7,700-footMingus Mountain, just west of the city in the Prescott National Forest, is an excellent Mecca for hang gliding enthusiasts with launches as a regular occurrence on weekends. Accommodations of all types are available in the city–motels, RV parks and camping at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Cottonwood is near Interstate 17 on state Highways 89A and260. From Phoenix, drive north to exit 287, then northwest on state Highway 260. From Flagstaff, drive south through the magnificent Oak Creek Canyon on state Highway 89A. 89A continues through Cottonwood to Jerome and over Mingus Mountain to Prescott as a designated scenic route.

Bit of History

James Oliver Bristow arrived in the area in 1875.  He was the first permanent settler in Cottonwood.  He built a dugout for his family to live in, until he could build a more comfortable house.  Eventually more settlers were drawn to the land’s fertile soil. 

Then in 1879, several soldiers from Fort Whipple in Prescott were sent to the area.  They were charged with protecting the settlers in Verde Valley.  The soldiers build their headquarters alongside the Verde River.  During the same year, a post office was established.  

As time passed and the settlement grew, the name Cottonwood was given to the town.  The name came from a circle of sixteen cottonwoods near the Verde River.  The town was incorporated in 1960.  The soldier headquarters was eventually converted to the first schoolhouse. 

Cottonwood continued to grow and develop, along with the nearby mining town of Jerome.  Eventually, Cottonwood became Verde Valley’s trade and population center.