Payson, Arizona

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Payson, Arizona
Green Valley Park, Payson, Arizona
Green Valley Park, Payson, Arizona
Motto: "Arizona's Cool Mountain Town"
Location in Gila County and the state of Arizona
Location in Gila County and the state of Arizona
Coordinates: 34°14′22″N 111°19′39″W / 34.23944°N 111.32750°W / 34.23944; -111.32750Coordinates: 34°14′22″N 111°19′39″W / 34.23944°N 111.32750°W / 34.23944; -111.32750
Country  United States
State  Arizona
County Gila
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Body Payson City Council
 • Mayor Kenny Evans
 • Total 19.5 sq mi (50.4 km2)
 • Land 19.5 sq mi (50.4 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation[1] 5,000 ft (1,524 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 15,301
 • Estimate (2013)[3] 15,245
 • Density 732.3/sq mi (283.3/km2)
Time zone Mountain (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) no DST/PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP codes 85541, 85547
Area code(s) 928
FIPS code 04-53700
GNIS ID(s) 32746, 2413121

Payson is a town in northern Gila County, Arizona, United States. Its location puts it very near to the geographic center of Arizona. Payson has been called "The Heart of Arizona".


Payson considers its founding year as 1882, at which time it was known as Green Valley. On March 3, 1884, a post office was established with the help of Illinois Representative Lewis Edwin Payson. The first postmaster was Frank C. Hise. In honor of Representative Payson’s help, the town' name was changed to Payson.

Payson had its first rodeo in 1884. Payson considers its rodeo the "world's oldest continuous" as it has been held every year since.

In 1918 author Zane Grey made his first trip to the area surrounding Payson. He would come back with regularity through 1929, and would purchase two plots of land near Tonto Creek, including 120 acres (49 ha) from Sampson Elam Boles under Myrtle Point. Grey wrote numerous books about the area and also filmed some movies, such as To the Last Man, in the Payson area in the 1920s.

During prohibition the manufacture, sale, and distribution of liquor was plentiful. The transactions took place on historic Bootleg Alley.[4]

During the 1930s an effort began to try to get Payson a better road to connect it to the outside world. At that time Payson was very isolated, with a trip from Phoenix to Payson taking eight to twelve hours. Throughout the 1950s work on a paved road from Phoenix to Payson progressed and the paving was completed in 1958. A few years ago this highway, State Route 87 (also known as the "Beeline Highway"), was expanded to four lanes.


Located at 34°14′22″N 111°19′39″W / 34.23944°N 111.32750°W / 34.23944; -111.32750 (34.239462, -111.327456),[5] at an elevation of 4,900 feet (1,500 m), the town has a total area of 19.5 square miles (51 km2). The Mogollon Rim lies to the north; there are a few small lakes in the area.

Nearby communities include Star Valley, Pine, Strawberry and Rye, all within Gila County.

Zane Grey Country[edit]

Down the Street Art Gallery on Main Street in Payson

"Zane Grey Country" is a term for the area around Payson, Arizona. This term was most often used in the 1970s and 1980s, and appeared in the header of the local newspaper, The Payson Roundup. In recent times it has fallen somewhat out of favor, as the term "Rim Country" has become more popular among locals.[citation needed]


Payson has a semiarid climate with a dry and hot (85-100 °F) period in early summer followed by sometimes heavy monsoonal thunderstorms from July through mid September. Large wildfires are a very real threat from the late spring through summer. During the winter months and into the early spring (November-April) intermittent Pacific low pressure systems bring rain and snow to the area.