|Tucson Arizona Overview
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Tucson is a city and the seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States, located 118 miles (188 km) southeast of Phoenix. As of July 1, 2005 a census estimate put the city's population at 521,605, and the metropolitan population at 931,210. By 2008 the city population is expected to exceed 610,000, while the metropolitan population is expected to exceed 1 million by spring 2007. In 2005 Tucson ranked as the 32nd-largest city and 52nd-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. It is the largest city in southern Arizona, and the second largest in the state after Phoenix, Arizona.
Major incorporated suburbs of Tucson include Oro Valley and Marana northwest of the city, South Tucson (surrounded by Tucson), and Sahuarita south of the city. Communities in the vicinity of Tucson (some within or overlapping the city limits, and some incorporated in their own right) include Casas Adobes, Catalina, Catalina Foothills, Flowing Wells, Green Valley, Tanque Verde, and Vail.
The name Tucson originates via Spanish from the O'odham, Cuk ?on (pronounced [??k ??n]; roughly, "chuk shon"), meaning "Black Base," a reference to the mostly volcanic mountains on the west side of the city. The most notable of these mountains is Sentinel Peak, better known as "A Mountain" because it sports a large letter A in honor of the nearby University of Arizona, situated in west central Tucson. Tucson is sometimes referred to as "The Old Pueblo."
Tucson was probably first visited by Paleo-Indians, known to have been in southern Arizona by about 12,000 years ago. Recent archaeological excavations near the Santa Cruz River have located a village site dating back 4,000 years ago. The floodplain of the Santa Cruz River was extensively farmed by people during the Early Agricultural period, circa 1200 B.C. to A.D. 150. These people constructed irrigation canals and grew corn, beans, and other crops while gathering wild plants and hunting animals. The Early Ceramic period occupation of Tucson saw the first extensive use of pottery vessels for cooking and storage. The groups designated by archaeologists as
the Hohokam lived in the area from A.D. 600-1450 and are known for their red-on-brown pottery.
Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino visited the Santa Cruz River valley in 1692, and founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac in 1700. The Spanish established a presidio (fort) in August 18, 1775 and the town came to be called "Tucson." Tucson became a part of Mexico after Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. Following the Gadsden purchase in 1853, Tucson became a part of the United States of America. From August 1861, until mid-1862, Tucson was the capital of the Confederate Territory of Arizona. Until 1863, Tucson and all of Arizona was part of the New Mexico Territory. From 1867 to 1879, Tucson was the capital of the Arizona
Territory. The University of Arizona, located in Tucson, was founded in 1885. By 1900 7,531 people lived in Tucson. At about this time, the US Veterans Administration had begun construction on the present Veterans Hospital. Many lung ailment afflicted veterans started coming to Tucson at this time. The population increased gradually to 13,913 in 1910, 20,292 in 1920, and 36,818 in 1940.
Its elevation is 2,389 ft (728 m) above sea level. Tucson is situated on an alluvial plain, surrounded by five minor ranges of mountains: the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Tortolita Mountains to the north, the Santa Rita Mountains to the south, the Rincon Mountains to the east, and the Tucson Mountains including 4,687-foot Mt. Wasson to the west. The Santa Catalina Mountains include 9,157-foot-high Mount Lemmon, the southernmost ski destination in the continental U.S.
The city is located on the Santa Cruz River, a dry river bed much of the year that floods during significant seasonal rains. (The Santa Cruz becomes a subterranean stream part of the year although it may appear dry.)
Tucson is located along I-10, which runs through Phoenix toward Santa Monica, California in the northwest, and through El Paso, Texas toward Jacksonville, Florida in the east. I-19, runs south from Tucson toward Nogales and the U.S.-Mexico border.
Tucson has two major seasons, summer and winter; plus three minor seasons: autumn, spring, and the monsoon (Tucson's primary "rainy season").
Summer is characterized by low humidity, clear skies, and daytime high temperatures that exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The average overnight temperature ranges between 68F and 85F.
The monsoon can begin anytime from mid-June to late July, with an average start date around July 3. It typically continues through August and sometimes into September. During the monsoon the humidity is much higher than the rest of the year. This period begins with clouds building up from the south in the early afternoon followed by intense thunderstorms and rainfall, which can cause flash floods. Large areas of the city do not have storm sewers, so monsoon rains flood the main thoroughfares but usually only for a few hours. A few underpasses in Tucson have "feet of water" scales painted on their supports to indicate whether they can be safely
forded by an automobile during a rainstorm. The evening sky at this time of year is often pierced with dramatic lightning strikes.
Autumn lasts from late October to November or December. It is much like summer, and similarly dry, with days above 100 degrees typical into early October. Average daytime highs of 84F, with overnight lows of 55F, constitute typical fall weather.
Winters in Tucson are mild relative to other parts of the United States. Daytime highs in the winter range between 64F and 90F, with overnight lows between 30F and 44F. Although quite rare, snow has been known to fall in Tucson, usually a light dusting that melts within a day.
Spring begins in late February or March, and is characterized by rising temperatures and several weeks of vivid wildflower blooms. Daytime average highs range from 72F in March to 88F in May with average overnight lows in March of 45F and in May of 59F.
Museums, art collections, and other attractions
The Arizona Historical Society, founded as the Pioneer Historical Society by early settlers, has a collection of artifacts reflecting the city's history--many focusing on the era before statehood was attained in 1912--as well as a fine collection of original documents in its library, including many interviews with early residents.
The Fremont House is an original adobe house in the Tucson Community Center that was saved while one of Tucson's earliest barrios was razed as urban renewal. Originally named the Fremont House after Gov. John C. Fremont, who rented it for his daughter, it is now known as the Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House to more accurately reflect its Latin heritage Fort Lowell Museum is located on the grounds of a military fort, established in 1873 during the "Indian Wars" period and abandoned in 1891.
The Tucson Museum of Art was established as part of an art school. It contains nearly 6,000 objects concentrating on the art of the Americas and its influences. The museum also operates several historic buildings in the neighborhood, including La Casa Cordova, the J. Knox Corbett House, the Edward Nye Fish House and the Stevens/Duffield House.
The University of Arizona Art Museum includes works by Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko as part of the Edward J. Gallagher Memorial Collection, a tribute to a young man who was killed in a boating accident. The museum also includes the Samuel H. Kress Collection of European works from the 14th to 19th centuries and the C. Leonard Pfeiffer Collection of American paintings.
The UA campus also features the Center for Creative Photography, a leading museum with many works by major artists such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.
The Mission San Xavier del Bac is a historic Spanish mission, located 10 miles (16 km) south of the city. It was founded by Father Kino in the 1660's as a mission which included a chain of other missions, many of which are located south of the border. The present building dates from the late 1700's. The mission, which still actively functions, is located in the Tohono O'odham nation reservation southwest of Tucson off of I-19.
Old Tucson Studios, built as a set for the movie Arizona, is a movie studio and theme park for classic Westerns. It was partly destroyed in 1995, allegedly by arson, but has since been rebuilt.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a non-traditional zoo devoted to animals and plants of the Sonoran Desert. It is located west of the Tucson Mountains.
The Pima Air & Space Museum, featuring over 250 modern and historical aircraft, is located to the southeast of the city near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
The Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) is a facility where the federal government stores out-of-service aircraft. Bus tours are conducted regularly from the Pima Air & Space Museum.
Titan Missile Museum is located about 25 miles (40 km) south of the city on I-19. This is a Cold War era Titan nuclear missile silo (billed as the only remaining intact post-Cold War Titan missile silo) turned tourist stop.
Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum has an inventory of 150 vehicles, ranging from small buggies to wagons, surries, and coaches. Historic artifacts from pioneer days and a re-created Western Main Street represent what early Wild West Tucson looked like, and what it offered in terms of businesses and services.
The Museum of the Horse Soldier includes artifacts and ephemera detailing Western cavalry and dragoon military units.