Arizona’s Verde Valley is located in Yavapai County, about 90 miles north of Phoenix and 25 miles southwest of Sedona. The Valley has an area of about 714 square miles. It is roughly 3,200 feet above sea level and receives an average of 13-14 inches of rain per year. It contains a 46-mile stretch of the Verde River, one of two Wild and Scenic Rivers that remain in Arizona today. As a tributary of the Salt River, the Verde supplies water for metropolitan Phoenix. A significant portion of land in and around the Verde Valley is managed by public agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Arizona State Trust.
Historically, the Yavapai and Apache Peoples lived in the Verde Valley as hunter-gatherers. The United States military camps and mining operations were established starting in the mid-1800s. Their demand for agricultural goods drew Anglo ranchers and farmers to the area. These agrarian settlers dug irrigation ditches to channel surface water from the Verde River and its tributaries to their farms. Since the 1970s, many farms and ranches of the Verde Valley have been converted to residential properties. The population of the Valley today is about 67,000 people. This growth, combined with growth in other parts of Yavapai County, has led to increased groundwater extraction. This could affect the flow of the Verde River, and therefore the local economy, surface water users, and riparian wildlife. Several NGOs are actively working to restore flows and riparian habitat. Water rights in the Valley are not settled: the Verde River will be the next focus of the Gila River Adjudication.
The top employment sectors of the Verde Valley today are arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services; health care and social assistance; retail trade; and professional, scientific management, and administrative and waste management services. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, and mining accounted for less than 5% of employment, similar to contemporary national and statewide averages.
Agriculture in the Verde Valley has persisted by maintaining old traditions and adapting to new opportunities. Today, the Valley’s growers produce alfalfa, barley, beef, corn, lamb, pecans, vegetables, wine grapes, and more. The Yavapai-Apache Nation is located in the Verde Valley, where they manage agricultural operations as well. Agriculture has been proposed as a key part of the strategy for economic development in the Valley, and for Verde River restoration.