Safford is in the southeastern portion of the state on the

south bank of the Gila River. The foothills of the Pinaleno

Mountains begin about five miles southeast of the city. Mount

Graham, the highest peak in the mountain range, and its companion

peaks have a marked effect on the local climate by

reducing winter precipitation.  Safford, the county seat of Graham

County, was established in 1874 and almost immediately became an

agricultural area.  Water is drawn from the Gila River to create 40,000

acres of irrigated agriculture.

 

Agriculture has been the mainstay of the Safford and Graham

County economy, with cotton the principal commodity. The

remaining acres are used for hay and small grains. A recently

opened 20-acre greenhouse produces tomatoes grown under

glass. Ranching also plays an important role in the economy of

the Safford area.

 

Two major construction projects are under way: a $200 million

astrophysical site at Steward Observatory on Mount Graham

and a 160-acre, excellent tourist attraction at Discovery Park.

The first phase, the Governor Aker Observatory, opened in

November 1995. These projects, added to the tourism efforts

already in place, will have a significant impact on the local economy.

Phelps Dodge Corp., owner of one copper mine in Graham

county, has just recently purchased a second. Construction of

the two sites will establish copper mining as an important element

of Graham County's economy.

 

Retail trade and services continue to play a significant role in the

economy of the area. Safford serves as a trade center for 55,000

to 60,000 people in a wide area of eastern Arizona and western

New Mexico.

 

Safford is approximately 10 miles north of the Coronado

National Forest, an area that provides many recreational facilities.

The most popular spots are the 10,720-foot Mount Graham

and the Pinaleno Mountains. Swift Trail, a 36-mile tour and one

of many scenic drives in the area, provides a route to the summit

and features many picnicking and camping sites. Riggs Flat Lake

has facilities for fishing, boating and other water-oriented

activities.

 

Scenic U.S. 70 connects Safford with the recreation areas at San

Carlos Lake and Coolidge Dam, the frontier fortifications of Fort

Thomas and Geronimo, the trading post at Bylas and the historic

cattle shipping point of Calva. West of Safford is Klondyke and a

designated primitive area, Aravaipa Canyon.  Roper Lake State Park

is just south of Safford. Formerly a private facility, it has been

developed by the state as a recreation park for the natural mineral

water hot springs that flow through the area.