Palo Verde Valley
The Palo Verde Valley of the Lower Colorado River, also known as the Palo Verde Valley Basin, is a valley located in the eastern border of Southern California, next to the border with Arizona, United States. It is located on the Colorado Desert within the Sonoran Desert south of the Parker Valley. The northern two-thirds is in Riverside County with the southern portion in Imperial County. La Paz County is to the east of the Colorado River.
The region is the ancestral home of Native American tribes: the Quechan, Mjoave, Matxalycadom, and Halchidhoma, who have Indian reservations in California and Arizona along the Colorado and Gila Rivers today.
The first Europeans that visit the area are several explorers for the Spanish Empire during its control here as part of New Spain, including Francisco Garcés, who traveled along the Colorado River northward in the early 1770s. Spaniards did not settle in the region in great numbers. Anglo-American fur traders and trappers begin entering the region in the 1820s.
An early trail, the Bradshaw Trail, is the first long-distance path through the valley. The valley's first developer is Thomas Blythe, best known for starting development that eventually lead to the establishment of the city of Blythe. From 1882, Blythe had dreamed of a "Colorado River Empire" centering on the Palo Verde Valley, also comparing the Colorado River to the Nile River, as applied today in Blythe. A number of settlers also established mines in the surrounding mountains since his development, some near Midland, California and Palo Verde, California. Although mining is another industry around the valley and Blythe, there are no mines within the valley. Only few of these mines remain active by this day.
The Palo Verde Valley is part of the Sonoran Desert and approximately 25 miles south of the Mojave Desert. The Big Maria Mountains is north of the valley, forming a distinctive view from the valley. The Colorado River forms the valley's boundaries east and south. Other mountains nearby are the McCoy Mountains to the west (north in Interstate 10), the Chocolate Mountains in the south, and the Saw Tooth Mountains in the east.
Agriculture is the valley's most important industry since indigenous farming. The Palo Verde Valley is noted for seasonal growths of honeydew and melons. Other crops are grown in the valley, such as alfalfa and vegetables.
The city of Blythe is in the center of the Palo Verde Valley and is the only incorporated community. Other communities are Mesa Verde, Ripley, and Palo Verde. Nearby communities are Ehrenberg and Parker in Arizona. Cibola is in the southern point of the valley.
In Blythe, the Palo Verde Hospital is the only medical facility in the valley.
Recreation is prevalent throughout the valley, such as offroading, domestic activities, sports, hiking, and gunnery/archery ranges. The Colorado River also offers its own selection of activities involving the water.
Water transfers to MWD
In a 2005 agreement, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) negotiated with Palo Verde Irrigation District (PVID) in Blythe to fallow, or idle, farm land for 35 years. The deal will transfer water that would have been used for farming in the area of Blythe, Ripley and Palo Verde to MWD.
According to a 1990 pilot study, water diversions and fallowed farm land reduced farming employment. The MWD provided $6 million in a development fund to reimburse the community for losses caused by shifting water to urban areas.
California currently uses more than its allotted share of water from the Colorado River. The transfer agreement also seeks to address over-use of river water. It is partly designed to reduce overall diversions from the river.
Interstate 10 goes through the Palo Verde Valley in an east-west direction across Blythe. California State Route 78 has its eastern terminus west of Blythe. US Route 95 goes through the northeastern part of the Valley. California State Route 78's northern terminus is just in the valley's western edges from Interstate 10.
Rail transportation by the Arizona and California Railroad served the valley until 2007. The nearest rail service is in Parker. Amtrak service serves the valley as close as Needles and Yuma. Commercial ships are used in the Colorado River until 1910, originally serviced from Port Isabel, Sonora, on the mouth of the Colorado River, and Yuma, Arizona.