Blythe street scene, c. 1900
Location of Blythe in Riverside County, California.
|Coordinates: Coordinates: |
|Incorporated||July 21, 1916|
|Named for||Thomas Henry Blythe|
|• Mayor||Dale Reynolds|
|• Total||27.37 sq mi (70.88 km2)|
|• Land||26.58 sq mi (68.85 km2)|
|• Water||0.78 sq mi (2.03 km2) 2.90%|
|Elevation||272 ft (83 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||740.40/sq mi (285.87/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-8 (PST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-7 (PDT)|
|GNIS feature IDs||1660349, 2409872|
Blythe is a city in eastern Riverside County, California, United States. It is in the Palo Verde Valley of the Lower Colorado River Valley region, an agricultural area and part of the Colorado Desert along the Colorado River, approximately 224 miles (360 km) east of Los Angeles and 150 miles (240 km) west of Phoenix. Blythe was named after Thomas Henry Blythe, a San Francisco financier, who established primary water rights to the Colorado River in the region in 1877. The city was incorporated on July 21, 1916. The population was 20,817 at the 2010 census.
Blythe was named after Thomas Henry Blythe, a San Francisco businessman and entrepreneur. Mr. Blythe established primary water rights to the Colorado River in the southwestern California region in 1877. The town was originally named Blythe City, by Thomas Blythe himself, but the name was shortened to simply Blythe around the time the first post office was opened in 1908.
In the early or mid-1870s, William Calloway (known as Oliver Calloway in some sources), an engineer and a former captain of the 1st California Infantry Regiment, explored an area across the Colorado River from Ehrenberg, Arizona and found its potential for development. Calloway made preliminary surveys and filed land claims under the Swamp Land Act of 1850. He interested the wealthy San Francisco Capitalist Thomas Henry Blythe (originally born Thomas Williams in Mold, Wales) to undertake development and settlement of an "empire" located next to the Colorado. Together they purchased a total of 140,000 acres under the Swamp Land Act, and another 35,000 acres under the Desert Land Act of 1877.
On July 17, 1877, Blythe filed his first claim for Colorado River water on what was to become the "Blythe Intake". Blythe appointed another man named George Irish as manager to assist Calloway in building an irrigation system. Calloway died in a Chemehuevi attack on March 28, 1880, and was replaced by C.C. Miller, the father of Frank Augustus Miller. Thomas Blythe died on April 4, 1883; his only revisit to the valley was in November 1882. After his death, the work in the valley halted and Blythe's estate subsequently went into litigation between his illegitimate daughter Florence and other claimants, the trial beginning in 1889. In the 1900s, Florence was awarded the estate, after several years of preceding rulings in favor of her and appeals against her.
Frank Murphy and Ed Williams, who were involved with the cattle industry in southeastern Arizona, came to the area in 1904 and were convinced it was well-suited for cattle and farming. With the Hobson brothers from Ventura County, they bought Blythe's estate and formed the Palo Verde Land and Water Company. During 1911–1912, W.F. Holt, who helped develop nearby Imperial Valley, was the company's general manager.
On August 8, 1916, the California Southern Railroad reached Blythe from the desert station of Rice, then known as Blythe Junction. It was later renamed to honor G.W. Rice, an engineer and superintendent of the railroad. The dramatic growth in the valley following this event attracted national attention. Production totals increased annually from virtually nothing to near $8,000,000 in few years, primarily from cotton and cotton seed shipped to the ports. The lower cotton prices in 1920 ended this prosperous time. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway began leasing the line in 1921 and acquired it at the end of 1942.
The first automobile bridge over the Colorado River between Blythe and Ehrenberg was constructed in 1928 to replace a cable ferry service. The bridge's successor was built in the early 1960s and was expanded to four lanes and a pedestrian walkway in early 1974.
In 1935, the completion of Boulder Dam extinguished the annual destructive floods in the valley. As noted during the city's fiftieth anniversary, some forty crops were grown on the farms, and large cattle feeds were another aspect of the agriculture industry. As of 1947, the Fisher ranch had the biggest herd of registered Brahman cattle in California, the breeding stock having been sold to western states and other countries.
In 2016, the voter-approved recreational use of cannabis in California has made the cannabis industry drawn to the economically declined city due to lower land prices, water, and potentially lower taxes compared to other parts of the state.
Geography and climate
Blythe is located near the California/Arizona border in the Colorado Desert section of the Sonoran Desert, at the junction of Interstate 10 and US 95. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 27.0 square miles (70 km2), of which 26.2 square miles (68 km2) is land and 0.8 square miles (2.1 km2) (2.9%) is water.
Nearby communities include Vidal to the north, Ripley to the south, Desert Center to the west, and Ehrenberg, Arizona, to the east. Major cities in the region include Yuma (85 miles), Indio (95 miles), Phoenix (150 miles), San Bernardino (170 miles), Riverside (172 miles), and Las Vegas (200 miles). Blythe is within 4 hours via car of 10% of the United States' population.
Blythe has a hot desert climate, featuring extremely hot summers and mild winters. There are an average of 178.4 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher. There are an average of 18.9 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower. Until 2016, the record high temperature was 122 °F (50 °C) on July 7, 1920, and June 24, 1929. But on June 20, 2016, that long-standing record was shattered when Blythe reached 124 °F (51 °C). The record low temperature was 5 °F (−15 °C) on January 6, 1913. There are an average of 16 days with measurable precipitation. The wettest year was 1951 with 8.71 inches (22.1 cm) and the driest year was 1956 with .18 inches (0.46 cm). The most rainfall in one month was 6.00 inches (15.2 cm) in August 1951, which included the 24-hour record rainfall of 3.06 inches (7.8 cm) on August 27.
At the airport, there are an average of 176.0 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher. There are an average of 5.4 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower. The record high temperature was 124 °F (51 °C) on June 20, 2016. The record low temperature was 20 °F (−7 °C) on January 8, 1971. There are an average of 17 days with measurable precipitation. The wettest year was 1992 with 9.16 inches (23.3 cm) and the driest year was 1953 with 0.59 inches (1.5 cm). The most rainfall in one month was 5.92 inches (15.0 cm) in August 1951, which included the 24-hour record rainfall of 3.00 inches (7.6 cm) on August 26.
Average seasonal temperatures:
|Climate data for Blythe, California|
|Record high °F (°C)||87
|Average high °F (°C)||68
|Average low °F (°C)||40
|Record low °F (°C)||0
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||0.56
Also notable is the geological history of Blythe – despite California's reputation for earthquakes, according to geologists Blythe has not had an earthquake centered in the city for over 500,000 years.
Tourism is a major component of the local economy. Blythe is a stopover city with full services for travelers between any of the nearby regions, in particular the major cities of Los Angeles and Phoenix, since it is approximately midway between those two metropolitan areas. The winter months bring visitors avoiding the colder climates of the north, when the population of the area within 50 miles (80 km) of Blythe has been known to exceed 500,000.
XPO Logistics freight has a large facility here. It is used mainly at night for cross dock operations, as there is seldom a need to make deliveries here.
Blythe also contains 24 churches, one library, two newspapers (Palo Verde Valley Times, The Desert Independent), two museums, two radio stations (KERU-FM and KJMB-FM ), three banks, a three-screen movie theater (now closed), one funeral home and an 18,500 sq ft (1,720 m2). recreation center. The area is popular with campers and hikers and has six parks, seven campgrounds, seven RV parks, 3 boat ramps onto the Colorado River, and an 18-hole public golf course.
Blythe hosts the Blythe Blue Grass Festival annually the third weekend of January.
Dove hunting is popular in Blythe. The hunting season starts every September 1.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
The 2010 United States Census reported that Blythe had a population of 20,817. The population density was 771.8 people per square mile (298.0/km2). The racial makeup of Blythe was 12,396 (59.5%) White (28.3% Non-Hispanic White), 3,126 (15.0%) African American, 243 (1.2%) Native American, 319 (1.5%) Asian, 32 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 4,045 (19.4%) from other races, and 656 (3.2%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11,068 persons (53.2%).
The Census reported that 12,972 people (62.3% of the population) lived in households, 82 (0.4%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 7,763 (37.3%) were institutionalized.
There were 4,513 households, out of which 1,972 (43.7%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,995 (44.2%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 855 (18.9%) had a female householder with no husband present, 344 (7.6%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 396 (8.8%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 24 (0.5%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 1,071 households (23.7%) were made up of individuals, and 367 (8.1%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.87. There were 3,194 families (70.8% of all households); the average family size was 3.41.
The population was spread out, with 4,157 people (20.0%) under the age of 18, 1,770 people (8.5%) aged 18 to 24, 7,332 people (35.2%) aged 25 to 44, 5,764 people (27.7%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,794 people (8.6%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.0 years. For every 100 females, there were 218.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 268.1 males.
There were 5,473 housing units at an average density of 202.9 per square mile (78.3/km2), of which 2,358 (52.2%) were owner-occupied, and 2,155 (47.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 4.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 10.3%. 6,913 people (33.2% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 6,059 people (29.1%) lived in rental housing units.
According to the 2010 United States Census, Blythe had a median household income of $48,327, with 16.1% of the population living below the federal poverty line.
As of the census of 2000, there were 12,155 people, 4,103 households, and 2,974 families residing in the city. The population density was 501.5 people per square mile (193.6/km2). There were 4,891 housing units at an average density of 201.8 per square mile (77.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 55.4% White, 8.3% Black or African American, 1.4% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 28.8% from other races, and 4.5% from two or more races. 45.8% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 4,103 households, out of which 41.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0% were married couples living together, 16.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.5% were non-families. 22.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.91 and the average family size was 3.45.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 33.9% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 28.4% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 9.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,324, and the median income for a family was $40,783. Males had a median income of $32,342 versus $26,671 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,424. About 19.0% of families and 20.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.9% of those under age 18 and 21.6% of those age 65 or over.
Alike the Coachella Valley in Riverside county and Imperial Valley on the Mexican border, Blythe has a large Hispanic and Mexican population, it can reach up to 72% in the harvest seasons in the area's agricultural economic sector. Blythe and nearby Imperial County are the largest Latino percentage regions in California and the United States. And the southeastern end of California is the state's poorest region with lower-income residents make up over half of the year-round population.
The Blythe Heat is a winter professional minor league baseball team of the Arizona Winter League, and also a member of the Arizona Summer League, but the leagues folded in 2017. They play on Alexander Field in Todd Park facing the Palo Verde College. Some games of the Lake Havasu Heat (folded in 2009) of the semi-pro Pacific Southwest Baseball League played in Blythe during the summer months.
State and federal agencies
State facilities in the town include the following:
- Resources Agency, California Department of Fish and Game office at 150 S. Main Street.
- California Highway Patrol office at 430 S. Broadway Street.
- California Department of Motor Vehicles office at 430 S. Broadway Street.
- California Department of Food and Agriculture office.
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – Chuckawalla Valley State Prison
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – Ironwood State Prison
- California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Federal facilities in the town include the following:
- U.S. Border Patrol
- U.S. Department of Agriculture – Blythe Federal Building
- U.S. Postal Service – Blythe Federal Building
Blythe has its own police department and volunteer fire department. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department also has a regional station in Blythe.
Emergency medical services are provided by American Medical Response, which staffs two paramedic ambulances in the city 24 hours a day.
Blythe area public elementary and secondary schools comprise the Palo Verde Unified School District, which contains 3 elementary schools and 1 high school, and continuation/adult education school. Palo Verde Community College District is part of the California Community College system and includes Palo Verde College in Blythe and an educational center in Needles. As of 2012, there is one private non-profit school, The Desert Learning Center, for grades K-8.
Interstate 10 crosses Blythe in an east–west direction. State Route 78's eastern terminus is west of the town. U.S. Route 95 crosses Blythe in the eastern side. Lovekin Boulevard and Midland Road serve the ghost town of Midland.
Health facilities in Blythe include Palo Verde Hospital, a General Acute Care Hospital with 55 total beds and 24-hour standby emergency services, 23 physicians/surgeons, 2 dentists, 2 optometrists, 1 chiropractor, and 1 podiatrist.
Local law enforcement
Blythe has its own police department, the Blythe Police Department who patrol Blythe. However the highways in and around Blythe are managed by California Highway Patrol and the nearby Riverside County patrolled by Riverside County Sheriff's Department who also run the county jail.
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