Thatcher, at an elevation of 2,900 feet, is in the Gila River

Valley approximately 160 miles southeast of Phoenix and four miles

northwest of Safford in Graham County. Thatcher was originally

settled in 1881 on the south bank of the Gila River and was named

for the Mormon Apostle Moses Thatcher. The town was incorporated

in 1899.

 

Eastern Arizona College, a two-year public community college, is

located in Thatcher. Founded by pioneers as St. Joseph Stake

Academy in 1888, Eastern Arizona College became the first official

state junior college in 1962. There are currently more than 3,600

students enrolled in Graham County classes. The school, with its

growth is becoming an an increasingly important contributor to the

economy of Thatcher and Graham County.

 

Agriculture is the mainstay of the Thatcher and Graham County

economy. Surrounding the town are fields of cultivated land devoted

to cotton, alfalfa and small grains. The Gila River, which flows

just north of town, provides irrigation.

Thatcher has remained essentially a farming community, with 68

percent of the land area within the corporate limits used for agricultural

purposes. However, retail trade and services are beginning to

play a significant role in the economy of the area. Tourism, including

winter visitors attracted to the area by its lovely climate and variety

of natural resources, has also made an impact on the local economy.

 

The nearby Coronado National Forest provides many recreational

facilities. In the Pinaleno Mountains southwest of Thatcher is popular Mount

Graham, a 10,720-foot peak. Swift Trail, a 36-mile tour and one of

many nearby scenic drives, 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 Thatcher 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.

 

Another drive west of Thatcher provides an interesting tour through

the town of Klondyke and a charming designated primitive area,

Aravaipa Canyon. Roper Lake State Park is just south on state Highway 191. Formerly

a private facility, it has been developed by the state as a recreation

park for the abundant natural mineral water hot springs that flow

there.