Why the original Phoenix Settlement failed
Phoenix, like every other city in the world, was started along a river. Whatever else people need, their first priority is water. The river that runs past Phoenix is The Salt River. It is created by the runoff of melted snow and rain in northeastern Arizona, and in spite of the fact that Phoenix is in the desert, these areas aren't, so quite a lot of water has flowed through Phoenix for the past 10,000 years.
Unfortunately, when the water flowed through the river, which is really just a gigantic wash, it flowed fast. People who lived near the river dug ditches to water their crops, but when the river flooded, they were in trouble. If you visit Pueblo Grande, you will see how the Hohokam people brought water up from the river by digging very large trenches, or ditches. When the Phoenix pioneers first tried to bring agriculture to this area in the 1860s, they followed the path of the Hohokams. And that is why the original Phoenix Settlement is at 40th street and Washington rather than the final townsite, which is at Central and Washington. A good distance!
The reason that the original settlement failed is that it was too close to the river. And in order to get the city away from this area that flooded, canals had to be built. The first canal (no, not ditch or trench) was built in 1877, long after the Phoenix Settlement had been established. It brought water (and still does so) from the Salt River a good distance east. This allowed the townsite of Phoenix to be many miles away from the river, high and dry, and still have water.
With the addition of the Arizona Canal in 1883 and the original Crosscut Canal in 1888, water from the Salt River was guaranteed to the new townsite, and the old "settlement" was doomed.
If you want to see the original Phoenix Settlement today, just look down as you land at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. Runways and surrounding airport property are the best use for this land which was too close to the river.
Posted by Brad Hall