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". The county seat is in Globe, AZ. The Payson police department executive director is the Arizona state coordinator of the 1033 program. The town is surrounded by the Tonto National Forest and has many outdoor activities year round.


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's 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 5,000 feet (1,500 m), the town has a total area of 19.5 square miles (51 km2). The Mogollon Rim that is the Southern boundary of the Colorado Plateau lies to the north of Payson; there are many cold water lakes on top of the rim. They are stocked with fish by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Nearby communities include Star Valley, Pine, Strawberry, Gisela 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's semi-arid climate and higher elevation moderates the temperature extremes of both summer and winter. While temperatures do reach the high 80s and low 90s in summer, the town's elevation of almost 5,000 feet keeps it protected from the 100+ temperatures found at Arizona's lower elevations. In summer there are occasional monsoon storms that develop in the later afternoon and bring heavy rainfall to the area. These also lower the temperature a bit. Summer nights cool down into the high 50s. Winter is also mild, with cold nights. January's average nighttime low is 21 degrees with some nights in the teens, but by mid-afternoon, the mercury has usually risen into the 50s. There are only a few days of real winter, with 26 inches of annual snowfall. The weather in Payson is as varied as the landscape, and a snowstorm is often followed by weather so warm that any accumulation melts away within a day or two. In spring the desert blooms with a fiery array of Indian paintbrush, primrose, and the golds and fuchsias of cactus blossoms and other brightly-colored wildflowers. In this mild climate, neither summer nor winter are "indoor" seasons.