Pinal County is a vibrant and fast-growing county that offers the best of Arizona. Whether you’re a history buff interested in Native American history, early western settlements and a rich local history, or an outdoors enthusiast looking for great fishing, hunting and camping, Pinal County has something to offer.
Get to Know Pinal County
Pinal County is named for the Pinal Mountains, which was the name the Spanish gave to the mountain ranges, meaning “pine.” The county is ringed by the beautiful ranges of the Superstition Mountains, Mineral Mountains and Waterman Mountains. It enjoys a dry, sunny climate most of the year.
Pinal County is the third largest county in Arizona and one of the fastest-growing counties in the U.S. The county currently has a population of roughly 375,500. Pinal County’s growth can be attributed to several causes:
- A strong economy with low unemployment and a median family income of $56,000 a year.
- Warm year-round weather and a wealth of outdoor activities.
- Proximity to major metropolitan areas of Tucson and Phoenix.
- Low cost of living.
The county’s main economic drivers have been mining, farming and tourism. Copper and silver mining have provided thousands of jobs and millions in revenues in the region for over 100 years.
A Booming Economy
Its location in the so-called “sun corridor” makes Pinal County ideal for various types of farms. Agriculture is also a huge source of revenues and employment in the region. Pinal County produces fruits, vegetables, cotton, sorghum, millet and corn.
The prison industry has provided another huge boost to Pinal County’s economy. The county is home to the Pinal County Adult Detention Center, Saguaro Correctional Center, La Palma Correctional Center, the Central Arizona Detention Center, the Florence Correctional Center and the Arizona State Prison Complex that has six facilities.
The Future and the Past Meet
Pinal County is rich in Arizona history. It’s also where you’ll find one of the most futuristic projects in the country.
Pinal County is home to Biosphere 2, a project that was named one of the 50 must-see wonders of the world. Biosphere 2 was created by the University of Arizona and is a perfect replica of the major ecosystems of earth.
The Biosphere features 6,500 panes of glass that shelter a tropical rainforest, an ocean made up of a million gallons of water, coastal fog, a desert environment and more. Visitors enjoy a truly immersive experience that includes a tour, a movie and the chance to experience every type of environment.
Arizona is a major agricultural center, responsible for growing much of the cotton used by U.S. manufacturers and the country’s second-largest producer of lettuce, head lettuce, romaine, cauliflower and broccoli. Over 15,000 farms across the state combine to create a $12.5 billion agriculture industry.
To celebrate its agricultural abundance, regular farmer’s markets are a natural in Pinal County. Following are some of the major markets where you can buy farm-fresh produce, dairy products and more.
Casa Grande Farmer’s Market. This open-air market is open year-round and held in Florence. You’ll find homemade bakery products, grass-fed beef, tomatoes, honey and prepared meals. It’s open every Tuesday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Lucky Nickel Ranch Certified Organic Farmer’s Market. This family-run ranch offers organically grown peas, kale, cabbage, watermelons, lettuce, radishes, herbs and more. The ranch also raises goats and operates an on-site bed and breakfast. The market is held in Eloy every Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Oro Valley Farmer’s Market. This is a year-round market that brings together small local ranchers, farmers and businesses. Vendors sell prepared foods along with ranch-fed beef and pork, fresh eggs, honey and local produce. This market also accepts SNAP and WIC. It’s held every Saturday in Oracle.
Outdoor Fun and Sports
Golf. If you love golf, you’ll love golfing in Pinal County’s perpetually sunny weather. Enjoy hitting the links at one of dozens of well-kept golf courses. These include:
- Apache Creek Golf Club in Apache Junction.
- Kearny Golf Club in Kearny.
- Mountain View Golf Club in Saddlebrooke.
- Oasis Golf Club in Florence.
- Poston Butte Golf Course in Florence.
Fishing. Enjoy fishing for bluegill, catfish and largemouth bass in San Carlos Lake, or head over to Canyon Lake to catch walleye, crappie, catfish, sunfish and rainbow trout. At Roosevelt Lake, you can try your hand at smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and flathead catfish.
Water sports. Pinal County has a number of rivers and lakes where you can enjoy tubing, kayaking, rafting, boating and water skiing. You can bring your own watercraft or enjoy a guided cruise down one of the many scenic, beautiful rivers that run through miles of mountains and cliffs.
Camping. If you like to stay close to nature, you can’t beat camping. Pinal County is home to several parks where you can pitch your tent and enjoy hiking, fishing, canoeing and swimming. You can stay in several state parks including the Lost Dutchman State Park, Picacho Peak State Park and West Pinal Park.
If RV camping is more your style, there are numerous RV parks in the county as well. They offer full amenities and easy access to all of the county’s activities.
Transportation and Amenities
Pinal County is serviced by CART, the Central Arizona Regional Transit system. These buses are designed primarily for seniors and those with disabilities to have transportation for shopping, medical appointments and social events. The CART buses run from 5:15 am to 8:00 pm. Buses are equipped to take passengers with wheelchairs, oxygen machines and other equipment.
Main Cities and Communities in Pinal County
Ak-Chin Indian Community
In the Sonora desert lies the reservation that is home to the Tohono O’odham (Papago) and Pima Indians. The Ak-Chin have set aside about 15,000 acres of farmland that is worked by tribal members, making it one of the largest farming communities among tribal lands.
The community also operates a Harrah’s Casino that now includes a 148-room resort. The luxury resort includes swimming pools with swim-up bars, luxury dining and accommodations, and gaming that includes slots and table games. This casino is one of the largest employers in Pinal County with over 800 workers.
The reservation also houses the Him-Dak museum, the first of its kind in America. It houses memorabilia and artifacts that represent the tribe’s history.
Apache Junction is a favorite vacation spot for Arizonans and people from all over the U.S. Nestled in the majestic Superstition Mountains, the town boasts beautiful scenery where you can enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities. You can hike the famed, historic Apache Trail, one of the most scenic routes in the country.
Enjoy wildlife photography, desert ATV tours, motorcycle and horseback tours, water skiing, fishing, rafting or visiting the Goldfield Ghost Town. Apache Junction has a population of around $36,000.
Apache Junction hosts a yearly celebration of Jacob Waltz, the famous Lost Dutchman who claimed to have found a rich goldmine in the Superstition Mountains in the 1870s. As legend has it, after Waltz died, a box full of gold was found under his bed. A friend claimed that Waltz had discovered the mine but never revealed the mine’s location. Prospectors and explorers have been looking for it ever since.
Located in the Santa Cruz Valley midway between Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona City is a young community. It was founded in 1959 and got its first post office in 1962. Arizona City has a population of around 4400.
Arizona City’s claim to fame is the purity of its water. The city is fed by the Santa Cruz river, one of the few rivers that flows North from Mexico. According to city records, this water has consistently been tested and found free of all impurities.
Currently, Arizona City is a small farming community with a small township. Plans are underway, however, to build a Dreamport Village resort and an extreme motorsports venue nearby, which planners say will bring thousands of jobs and a huge boost to the local economy.
Coolidge is home to the Casa Grande ruins, the first site in America to receive protected historical status, which it did in 1892. These ruins left by the Hohokam people who settled this part of the state centuries ago have long intrigued scientists.
In addition to the ruins, Coolidge is home to several buildings on the national historic register, including the Coolidge Women’s Club and the original Coolidge School. Coolidge has a population of roughly 11,000. It is named for President Calvin Coolidge, who authorized the construction of the Coolidge Dam that brought much-needed irrigation to the region.
Eloy got its name from a railway station built by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1878. The station was named East Line of Yuma, and railway engineers typically shortened that to the acronym ELOY. The town’s founders then discovered that the word Eloy meant “chosen one” and a name was born.
Eloy City has a population of roughly 11,000. It is home to four correctional facilities housing a total of 6800 inmates. Eloy has many recreational amenities including 12 parks, a recreation center, swimming pools and golf courses.
Gila River Indian Community
One of the largest reservations in Arizona, the Gila River Indian community is home to over 11,00 members of the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and the Pee-Posh (Maricopa) tribes.
The reservation sits on over 370,000 acres and the tribe operates its own telecomunications company, electric utility, industrial park and healthcare clinic.
The community operates three resort-style casinos that are open 24-7, an extreme driving school, golf courses and resorts. In addition, you can visit the Aji Spa where you’ll enjoy treatments based on the ancient healing arts of the Pima and Maricopa traditions, or the HuHuGam Cultural Center, an educational center designed to teach the history and traditions of these tribes.
A newer, upscale community in Pinal County, Gold Canyon is a flourishing community with a wealth of dining, shopping and recreational activities. The permanent population is about 10,000 but that doubles during the winter months with the arrival of “snow birds” who make their winter home there. Located at the foot of the Superstition Mountains, Gold Canyon offers golf resorts, hiking trails and bike routes.
Kearney was built in 1958 by the Kennecott Mining Company, in order to provide housing for copper mine workers. Many residents from nearby Sonora and Barcelona also moved to Kearney as the copper mine grew and took over the land. It was named for General Stephen Watts Kearny, who led a dragoon of soldiers through the area on their way to California in 1846. Kearney has a population of about 2400.
Marana is a fast-growing city with a current population of around 35,000. Marana is notable as a treasure trove of early state history. Marana has several noteworthy sites that show evidence of human settlement and farming as far back as 4200 years. These include the Marana Mound, a site inhabited by the Hohokam community between 1150 and 1300 A.D, and Linda Vista Hill, a Trincheras settlement that was inhabited between 1200 and 1350 A.D. Marana sits partially in Pinal County and partially in Pima County.
Mammoth is a small town of about 1500 known for its natural, unspoiled beauty. The town took its name from the Old Mammoth Mine, located above the town in the late 1800’s. Miners said the gold deposits were “mammoth,” and the name stuck.
Mammoth is a hidden gem for recreational activities. Set in the Galiuro Mountains, it offers great opportunities for hiking, photography and exploring the old abandoned mines. The nearby lower San Pedro River area is a birder’s delight where you can see southwestern willow flycatchers, Gila woodpeckers and American kestrels.
Maricopa’s motto is “Proud history, prosperous future.” This city on the banks of the Gila River was a prosperous trading post in the 1800s, where its abundant water supply and thriving city made it a key stopping point for travelers. Since then, this city of 48,000 has maintained that heritage of providing rest, recreation and natural beauty to travelers from all over the world.
Maricopa is the only city in the U.S. that is bordered by two Native American nations. Maricopa’s median income is $75,000, one of the highest in Arizona. Maricopa is a thriving, diverse community that manages to stay friendly and welcoming.
The town was named by prospector Alan Wardle, who named his first mine after the ship that brought him to America. The discovery of gold and silver helped the town prosper through the 1800s and beyond.
Oracle became famous for its Acadia Ranch, a sanitorium for people suffering from tuberculosis. The warm, dry desert air was believed to be ideal for people with this disease. The ranch is now a museum dedicated to local history.
Today, Oracle is home to the Biosphere 2 project and Peppersauce Cave, a former mining cave that is open to explore. The town has a population of about 3500.
San Manuel was built in 1953 as a company town to serve the San Manuel copper mine, which closed in 2005. Today it is a premier destination for ATV riding, hiking and biking. San Manuel is also the entry point to the Arizona Trail.
San Manuel, Mammoth and Oracle form a tri-community area that shares economic and civic resources. San Manuel has a population of around 3500. San Manuel is home to San Manuel Museum, a mining museum, and the one-runway San Manuel Airport.
San Tan Valley
This community of 80,000 is largely a bedroom community for workers in Phoenix. The San Tan Mountain Park is a recreational area offering many activities. San Tan Valley includes age-restricted housing for seniors, housing for families and multi-unit housing.
Superior was built as a company town for the Silver Queen and Magma mines. Superior is home to the Boyce Arboretum State Park, a naturalist’s paradise where you can view over 2600 of plants that grow well in arid climates.
Founded in 1935, the arboretum is the oldest and the largest arboretum in Arizona. It has a cactus garden, palm and eucalyptus groves, an Australian exhibit, South American exhibit, aloe garden and an herb garden.
Superior, with a population of roughly 3500, is a small town with a big claim on Hollywood. Movies that were filmed in Superior include Eight-Legged Freaks, U-Turn, How the West Was Won, Blind Prophecy and Skinwalkers.
History of Pinal County
Pinal County was formed in 1875 when the state legislature carved it out of neighboring Maricopa and Pima counties. At the time, there were already settled towns and cities in the area. Florence was one of the first towns established in the county and is the county seat today.
Pinal County flourished thanks to the mining industry. Many of the towns and cities in the county were built during the prosperous years of gold mining. These desert stopovers sprung up to provide rest and recreation to travelers, prospectors and immigrants looking for gold and the chance for a new life.
Others were built as company towns by the mining companies. You can see the legacy of this history in the names of the trails, rivers and cities of the county. After the mines closed, these communities continued to attract visitors by offering the ability to enjoy Arizona’s abundant scenic beauty, outdoor activities and year-round warm climate.
Pinal County has always been an oasis in the desert, fed by clear creeks and rivers and shaded by the mountains.
History of Florence, Arizona
Florence was founded in 1866. It is one of the oldest non-native settlements in the state. Its current population is around 10,000.
The Hohokam people were the original inhabitants of the region where Florence now sits. The Hohokam built canals and farming communities, but they disappeared mysteriously in the 1400s. Until the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, the land was owned by Mexico.
In 1866, Levi Ruggles, a civil war veteran from Ohio, was sent to Arizona as an official, federally-appointed Indian Agent for the territory of Arizona. While he was there, he decided to settle permanently in the area. He bought over 100 acres of land and applied for permission to form a town. The governor granted him permission and Ruggles began building the city that he named Florence.
In 1869, Florence had a post office and mail began to be delivered by Pony Express from the Blue River station 25 miles away. Ruggles also built his family home and opened a general store.
Many Firsts in Florence
In 1878, Ruggles built the first courthouse in Florence. This adobe structure has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. It is no longer used as a courthouse but has been used as a hospital, nursing home and museum. Today it is the McFarland Historical State Park and houses the Florence Visitor Center.
In 1870, Fred Adams built the town of Adamsville and quickly added a new store, flour mill, post office, bank and stores. A flood from the nearby Gila river in the 1900s led to the closing of Adamsville and its residents moved to Florence, adding to its population.
In 1875, prospectors discovered silver in the nearby mountains, leading to a rush in population as more prospectors flooded the town to work the now-famous Silver King Mine. That mining history has given names to the area’s best-known hiking trails and passages, such as Prospector’s View Trail, Treasure Loop Trail and Dutchman’s Trail.
One of the most famous shootouts of the Old West occurred in Florence, when former Sheriff Peter Gabriel and his former best friend Joe Pye had a falling-out that erupted in violence one day in 1888. Pye was killed and his tombstone still stands in Florence.
The Father of Florence
Levi Ruggles, who is sometimes nicknamed “the father of Florence,” went on to serve in many official capacities in Florence, including justice of the peace and school board trustee. He died in 1889.
Today, much of Ruggles’ legacy can still be seen in Florence. You can visit the original adobe courthouse and the ruins of his first family home. Above all, Ruggles’ dreams for Florence to become a vibrant and flourishing city have come true.
Things to See in Florence
Florence retains much of the small-city charm it had when it was first founded and built. The town was the location for the movie Murphy’s Romance, which starred Sally Field and James Garner. The film highlighted its old-fashioned charm and beautiful mountain views. Florence is a small but vibrant city with a rich history, a friendly community and many local places to dine or shop.
Casa Grande ruins. Not far from Florence are the Casa Grande ruins, a network of buildings and canals that date to the 1400s. The people who built the original settlement left no written records and little is known about the people who built them and how they were used. Since their discovery, the ruins have drawn archaeologists and historians who are fascinated by the mystery of these ruins.
Tom Mix Memorial. The great silent film star Tom Mix died in a car accident just outside of Florence. He was driving 80 mph and was killed instantly. Today a memorial marks the site of the accident on Route 79.
Superstition Wilderness Area. Visit this unspoiled tract of land that takes you through the original prospectors’ trails and see Arizona the way the first settlers did.
Self-guided History Tour. Visit all of Florence’s historic landmarks with a self-guided tour. You can get information about this and other activities at the Florence Visitor Center, located at McFarland State Historic Park.
Florence is filled with buildings and homes that were originally built in the 1800s, some of which are still in use. Florence’s historic district is listed in its entirety in the National Register of Historic Places. The district has over 140 well-preserved buildings from the 1800s and early 1900s.
Pinal County Historical Society and Museum. This museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing a wide variety of county and statewide artifacts, books, photographs and documents. The museum has an extensive Native American collection and a huge collection of prison artifacts. In addition, you can visit a blacksmith shop, a preserved 1928 cabin and antique fire engines. This museum is a great place to learn more about Pinal County.
Florence Police Department
Florence has its own police department, headed by police chief Daniel Hughes. The department offers a free activity called the Florence Police Citizen Academy. Participants selected to take part in this program get the chance to experience first-hand what it’s like to be police officer or detective.
Available only to residents of Florence who are 18 or older and can pass a background check, the program runs for five weeks and immerses participants in police operations, communications and 911 dispatchers’ work, crime scene investigations, use of police dogs and more.
These nearby cities also have their own police departments:
- Eloy City
- Apache Junction
Pinal County Courthouse
The Pinal County courthouse was built in 1891. Its actual official name is the Second Pinal County Courthouse, as it replaced an earlier building that was built by Levi Ruggles. The courthouse has become such a famous landmark that the “second” designation is often dropped. It’s now known officially as “the” courthouse of Pinal County.
The courthouse is a three-story brick structure that sits at the corner of Pinal and 12th streets in Florence, the county seat. James M. Creighton, a well-known Arizona architect, designed the building. It is considered a classic and outstanding example of Late Victorian Revival style. This is a style characterized by ornate detailing, trellises, pointed spires and bay windows.
A Neglected Treasure
Sadly, the courthouse started falling into ruin late in the 1960s and 70s. The state government built a modern, replacement courthouse in 1961 rather than approve funding to maintain the historic courthouse.
The courthouse continued to fall into ruin until the government shut it down in 2005. The historic courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and named an “endangered” historical building in 2007.
Despite these efforts, plans to revive the courthouse did not come to fruition until 2011. In that year, the county government passed a bill authorizing reconstruction of the courthouse.
Restored to Its Former Glory
Today the courthouse has been restored to its original beauty, with added structural supports to ensure that it continues to stand for many years to come. It is where the county supervisors meet and where many agencies of the county government have offices.
The courthouse features a clock tower but it has never had an actual, working clock. Instead, the builders painted a picture of a clock on the front of the tower. It is set to 11:44. The courthouse is on the list of must-see places for visitors to Pinal County.
Pinal County Sheriff’s Office
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) is the main policing and law enforcement unit in the county. The PCSO runs the county jail and works with numerous state and federal law enforcement agencies including the ATF, FBI and ICE.
Sheriff Mark Lamb
In Arizona, the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer for each county. Sheriffs are elected to four-year terms.
Sheriff Mark Lamb was elected in 2017 after a long and outstanding record as a police officer. Lamb began his career with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, where he was named Rookie of the Year and later Officer of the year. During his time there, Lamb also worked on numerous federal, state and tribal investigations involving assaults, homicides, drive-by shootings, drug and alcohol cases and gang-related crimes. He was named a detective and later awarded Detective of the Year by the community.
Lamb joined the PCSO as a deputy and was assigned to a multi-agency (Salt River PD, Mesa PD, DPS, ATF, US Marshal Service and the FBI) RICO case that dismantled a large, violent gang. For his work on this case, Lamb was given the Award of Excellence from the Arizona Gang Investigators Association.
Lamb was elected Sheriff of Pinal County in 2017.
The PCSO follows a community policing philosophy that involves the local community in police efforts. In addition, the PCSO has instituted numerous community initiatives to help foster awareness and safety among the county’s residents.
Block Watch. It’s estimated that nationwide, over 10 million crimes go unreported. This program trains community residents in how to detect whether illegal activities are going on in their neighborhood. It trains in the best, safest ways to notify law enforcement about what they’ve observed.
Eddie the Eagle. Eddie is a mascot who visits county children’s events to teach children about gun safety. A police officer accompanies Eddie to talk to children about the dangers of guns. The county also provides lock boxes to parents who want to keep their firearms locked away from their children.
Fatal Vision. This program allows people to experience what it’s like to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Participants wear special blurred-vision goggles while driving a golf cart in an enclosed area.
Home Alone Safe Alone. This program provides an emergency notification system for elderly people or disabled people who are living alone or otherwise at risk for injury. It gives the person a pendant wired to a home telephone system. At the push of a button, the device dials three neighbors and emergency services.
Sheriff’s Toy Drive. A donation and toy drive provides clothes, toys and gifts to children of low-income county families each year.
Pinal County Adult Detention Center
Also called the Pinal County Jail, the Detention Center houses inmates arrested for crimes in Pinal County as well as detainees held by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). It serves as the local jail. A separate facility houses juvenile offenders.
The facility houses over 1500 inmates. It is the third largest county jail in Arizona. Daily operations and oversight of the jail are managed by Captain Gilbert Hoyos and Captain Darren Rushing.
The Pinal County ADC is run by the Pinal County Sherriff’s Office (PCSO). Headed by Sherrif Mark Lamp, the PCSO consists of over 650 employees who offer policing patrols throughout the county. In addition, the PCSO has several specialized units such as the PCSO Search and Rescue Team and the PCSO Aviation Unit, which help locate lost or missing people. Other specialty units focus on drug and human trafficking, border patrol enforcement and narcotics enforcement.
Visiting Inmates at Pinal County Adult Detention Center
Pinal County encourages friends and family members to stay in touch with detainees at the center. To facilitate this, the county recently introduced a video-streaming service that allows inmates to have video visitations with family members anywhere in the U.S. or the world.
Visiting hours at the ADC are Monday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. On Fridays, only video visitations are allowed. Visiting hours on Saturday are from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. There are no visiting hours on Sunday.
The public is limited to two 20-minute visits per week. Family members can visit once a day for 30 minutes. For family members who want more contact with their loved ones, the ADC recommends using video visitation through the iWebVisit service.
An exciting new technology from iWebVisit allows family members and friends to set up a “video visitation” with their incarcerated loved ones from their home, office or anywhere that has an internet connection. All that’s required is a desktop, laptop or even an Android phone with a webcam.
Currently in use in jails and detention centers throughout the country, iWebVisit is an affordable and easy-to-use system. The cost for video visits to the ADC have currently been reduced from $15 to $9 per 30-minute session.
To use it:
- Register for free on the service’s web site.
- Choose from the list of participating facilities.
- Enter the inmate’s name and inmate number.
- Schedule a visit. The facility notifies the inmate of the schedule visit time.
- Pay the fee. Once the fee is processed, the visit can begin.
Getting to Pinal County
Florence, Arizona is 62 miles from Phoenix. You can make the drive in about two hours.
Driving Directions from Florence to Phoenix:
- Depart N Main St toward E 1st St.
- Turn left onto E 1st St.
- Turn right onto N Pinal St.
- Turn right onto AZ-79 BL / AZ-287 / E Butte Ave.
- Turn left to stay on AZ-79 BL / AZ-287.
- Bear right onto AZ-79 S BL / AZ-287 W / S Main St, and then immediately bear right onto AZ-287 W / W AZ-287.
- Keep straight onto AZ-87 for 7 miles.
- Turn left onto AZ-387 for 6.9 miles.
- Turn left onto AZ-387 / AZ-187
- Take ramp right for I-10 West toward Phoenix.
- Stay on I-10 for 36 miles. At exit 148, take ramp right toward Jefferson St / Washington St.
- Turn left onto E Washington St.
- Road name changes to W Washington St. You will be in Phoenix.
Driving directions from Phoenix to Florence:
- Head south on North Main Street
- Make a slight right onto Florence-Coolidge Highway (AZ 287) and drive for about 8 miles.
- Continue onto AZ 87 for 7 miles.
- Turn left onto AZ 387.
- Take the ramp on the right towards I-10 West Phoenix.
- Merge left onto I-10 West.
- Stay on I-10 West for 36.8 miles.
- Take the ramp for Jefferson Street.
- Turn left onto East Washington Street.
- You will be in downtown Florence.