GREATER PHOENIX: AN OVERVIEW: Desert character. It can’t be conjured, landscaped or kindled with twinkling bulbs. John Ford knew that. So did Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis L’Amour. Spend a few days in Greater Phoenix and you’ll understand, too. America’s fifth-largest city still has cowboys and red-rock buttes and the kind of cactus most people see only in cartoons. It is the heart of the Sonoran Desert and the gateway to the Grand Canyon, and its history is a testament to the spirit of Puebloans, ranchers, miners and visionaries.
LAY OF THE LAND: Greater Phoenix encompasses 2,000 square miles and more than 20 incorporated cities, including Glendale, Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa. Maricopa County, in which Phoenix is located, covers more than 9,000 square miles. Phoenix’s elevation is 1,117 feet, and the city’s horizon is defined by three distinct mountains: South Mountain, Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak.
POPULATION: One of the fastest-growing regions in the nation, Greater Phoenix has a population of nearly 4.49 million. Greater Phoenix’s population increased by 39 percent from 1997 to 2005 (compared to the national rate of 12 percent). In 1950, Phoenix proper had a population of about 100,000; today its population is more than 1.6 million, making it the sixth-largest city in the U.S. The average age of Greater Phoenix residents is 34, making it the fifth-youngest metro region in the country.