Arizona is the sixth largest state in the country in terms of area. Its population has always been predominantly urban, particularly since the mid-20th century, when urban and suburban areas began growing rapidly at the expense of the countryside.
Arizona is a land of contradictions. Although widely reputed for its hot low-elevation desert covered with cacti and creosote bushes, more than half of the state lies at an elevation of at least 4,000 feet above sea level, and it possesses the largest stand of evergreen ponderosa pine trees in the world. Arizona is well known for its waterless tracts of desert, but, thanks to many large man-made lakes, it has many more miles of shoreline than its reputation might suggest. Such spectacular landforms as the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert have become international symbols of the region’s ruggedness, yet Arizona’s environment is so delicate that in many ways it is more threatened by pollution than are New York City and Los Angeles. Its romantic reputation as a wild desert and a place of old-fashioned close-to-the-earth simplicity is at variance with the fact that after the 1860s the state’s economy became industrial and technological long before it was pastoral or agrarian.