|Motto: "Arizona's Cool Mountain Town"|
Location in Gila County and the state of Arizona
|• 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||5,000 ft (1,524 m)|
|Population (2010 census)|
|• Estimate (2012)||15,215|
|• Density||732.3/sq mi (283.3/km2)|
|Time zone||Mountain (UTC-7)|
|• Summer (DST)||no DST/PDT (UTC−7)|
|ZIP codes||85541, 85547|
|GNIS ID(s)||32746, 2413121|
According to 2012 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city was 15,301.
Payson considers its founding year as 1882, at which time it was known as Green Valley or Union Park. On March 3, 1884, the town officially established a post office. Postmaster Frank C. Hise recommended that the town be named after a man named Levi Joseph Payson. Senator Payson was very instrumental in the establishment of the Post Office. In honor of Payson’s help, the town (or quite possibly merely Hise) decided to change the name 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 (0.49 km2) 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.
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 four to five hours. Throughout the 1950s work on a paved road from Phoenix to Payson progressed and the paving was completed in 1959. A few years ago this highway, State Route 87 (also known as the "Beeline Highway"), was expanded to four lanes.
Zane Grey Country
"Zane Grey Country" is a term for the area around Payson, Arizona. This term was most often used in 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.
Payson has an atypical version of a Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa) with a dry period in early summer followed by heavy monsoonal thunderstorms and rain from frontal cloudbands in the cooler months. Like more typical Mediterranean climates, however, forest fires tend to be extremely prevalent during dry summer periods.
As of the census of 2000, there were 13,620 people, 5,832 households, and 4,070 families residing in the town. The population density was 699.6 people per square mile (270.1/km²). There were 7,033 housing units at an average density of 361.2 per square mile (139.5/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 94.75% White, 0.26% Black or African American, 1.89% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.34% from other races, and 1.17% from two or more races. 5.20% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 5,832 households out of which 21.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.6% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.2% were non-families. 26.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.71.
In the town the population was spread out with 18.1% under the age of 18, 4.6% from 18 to 24, 15.3% from 25 to 44, 25.9% from 45 to 64, and 36.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 49 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.5 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $33,638, and the median income for a family was $38,713. Males had a median income of $30,900 versus $23,750 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,513. About 6.5% of families and 9.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.1% of those under age 18 and 4.7% of those age 65 or over.
Ninety-seven percent of the land around Payson is under the jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service (Payson is surrounded by the Tonto National Forest) or by tribal governments. Consequently much of the land is available for hiking, horseback riding, fishing and hunting activities. Tonto Natural Bridge, the largest known travertine natural bridge in the world, is located just northwest of Payson in Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, a unit of the Arizona State Park system. The area incorporates three golf courses, two of which belong to private country clubs. Mazatzal Casino, a tribal casino, is operated by the Tonto Apache Indian Reservation near the south end of the city.
The Payson area is a popular destination for rockhounds. In various areas surrounding the community can be found quartz crystals rivaling Herkimer diamonds in quality, geodes, agate, and onyx. Fossils are commonly found in the Paleozoic strata that is exposed along the Mogollon Rim to the north and west of Payson along State Route 87 and State Route 260.
Payson is known for its rodeo which is the oldest continuous rodeo in the world.
Payson has two large parks, Green Valley Park and Rumsey Park. A community swimming pool is located near Rumsey Park and the town hosts free outdoor concerts in the summer. Other activities include intramural sports like baseball and football. Payson also has a small skatepark.
Payson is the site of the annual Arizona State Championship Old Time Fiddlers Contest, held in September. The fiddle contest features both local and nationally-known players and awards cash prizes. Payson is also home of two rodeos. In May the Multi-Purpose Event Center across from the Tonto Apache Indian Reservation hosts the Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo. In August, the historic August Doin's Rodeo (1884) takes place making Payson, Arizona the "Home of the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo." Prescott, Arizona is known as hosting the "World's Oldest Rodeo" (1888) but took a hiatus during World War II.
The town is served by the Payson Unified School District.