Gila Bend, near a sharp bend in the Gila River, is on a
desert plain in southwestern Maricopa County.
Gila (pronounced “hee-la”) Bend, at an elevation of 735 feet, was a
prehistoric Hohokam Indian village for centuries before it was visited
by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in 1699.
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Kino found the fertile banks of the Gila River abandoned by an early Indian Tribe called the Opas. The Opas had established an Indian rancheria and raised two-grain crops annually, drawing irrigation water from the Gila River.
The same Rancheria was visited by Spanish Captain Juan Bautista de
Anza, commander of the presidio at Tubac and founder of the City
of San Francisco, and Father Francisco Tomas Garces in May 1774.
They named it Pueblo de Los Santos Apostales San Simon y Judas.
Now a busy travel center in a rich, agricultural area, Gila Bend was
established on an overland stage route in 1858 and was incorporated
Agriculture, with 90,000 acres under cultivation in the trade area, is
the mainstay of the Gila Bend economy. Cotton heads the list of
crops grown, along with alfalfa and grain.
Gila Bend is located on Highway 85, to Rocky Pointe, Mexico, and
on Interstate 8, one of the major routes connecting Phoenix and
Tucson to the Pacific Coast. These heavily traveled roadways make
the city a popular overnight stop, offering travelers many facilities,
including hotels and motels, restaurants, service stations and
Directly south of Gila Bend is the 2.8-million-acre Gila Bend Air
Force Auxiliary Field and the Barry M. Goldwater Gunnery Range,
which employs about 125 contract workers. Recreation on the
range is available by permit.
Low picturesque mountains enclose this scenic oasis in the desert.
Remnants of other civilizations that have inhabited this basin during
earlier times are still in evidence, some of which are on display in the
San Lucy, an Indian village north of Gila Bend on the Tohono
O’odham Indian Reservation dates to 1883. Painted Rocks, a historic
feature of the Bureau of Land Management Park, has nearly a
full acre of petroglyphs, complete with a winding trail through the
huge rock mound. Camping and picnicking areas are surrounded by
desert landscape and the historic Gila Trail.
Nearby is Painted Rocks Dam, the largest flood control reservoir in
Arizona. The Gila Trail was a major thoroughfare for travelers
through Arizona in the 18th century. Among the most famous of
the pathfinders and soldiers who followed this route were
Christopher (Kit) Carson, General Stephen W. Kearny, leader of the
so-called “Army of the West,” and the Mormon Battalion led by
Captain Philip St. George Cooke in 1847. Also, Gila Bend is in the
process of developing the Gatlin Archeologist site, which is just
north of town. A tourist information center and the Gila Bend museum are located
at the town office, 644 W. Pima Street.
Places To Visit
Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site
GENERAL INFORMATION: Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site, approximately 90 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona, provides visitors the opportunity to view an ancient archaeological site containing hundreds of symbolic and artistic rock etchings, or “petroglyphs,” produced centuries ago by prehistoric peoples. There are also inscriptions made by people who passed through during historic times. Many well- known events in Arizona history occurred near the Petroglyph Site, including the expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza that founded San Francisco, the Mormon Battalion, and the Butterfield Overland Mail. Formerly a unit of the Arizona State Park system, the jurisdiction of Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site reverted to the in 1989.
ACCESS: Exit Interstate 8 at Painted Rock Dam Road (Exit 102) approximately 12.5 miles west of Gila Bend. Travel north on Painted Rocks Dam Road (paved) 10.7 miles to Rocky Point Road (unpaved). Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site is 0.6 miles west of Painted Rock Dam Road on Rocky Point Road.
FACILITIES: Picnic tables, barbeque grills, steel fire rings and a vault toilet are provided for picnicking and primitive camping. A ramada is available for group activities. No potable water, trailer hookups or dump stations are provided–these facilities are available nearby in Gila Bend. During October through April, a Campground Host is on site.
The former Painted Rocks State Park included a “Lake Unit” near Painted Rocks Dam approximately 4.5 miles north of the Petroglyph Site. This area included camping facilities and was a popular fishing attraction, but was closed to the public in 1989 due to unsafe levels of pollutants in the Gila River. Currently, there is no public access to Painted Rocks Dam or the Lake Unit.
MAPS: Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site is shown on most Arizona road maps as “Painted Rocks State Park.”
Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site receives the greatest visitation from October through April. At other times, the area receives little use.
Winter Temperatures vary from freezing at night to near 80 F during the daytime. Summer temperatures vary from near 70 F at night to near 120 F during the daytime.
Drinking water is not (Underlined) provided at Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site, so bring plenty.
You may encounter rattlesnakes or other poisonous creatures; watch for them and be careful where you put your hands and feet. Do not harass reptiles. Most bites result from people playing with, collecting, or attempting to kill them.
Help to preserve this important archaeological site by not climbing or marking on the rocks. Many rocks have been broken or tumbled due to people climbing on them and several have been defaced.