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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
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 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