In the fall of 1882, Thomas Blythe
was present for the final blasting of a cut in a point
jutting into the Colorado River. The river back then was 5
miles wide during the spring floods. The cut was the new
diversion intake for his proposed land development and
colonization plan. With him was 28-year-old Englishman
George Irish, who had been appointed by Blythe to be manager
of the project.
Blythe, in his 60th year already had spent $82,000 on an
undertaking to clear and irrigate a wilderness of 40,000
acres, including a 40-acre experimental farm. The
development scheme, on the west banks of the Colorado less
than 90 miles north of Fort Yuma, was Blythe’s dream of an
“Empire on the Colorado”.
Edwin F. Williams probably played a bigger part in the
development of this wilderness than any other man. Williams
arrived to find a jungle, and lived to see Blythe a modern,
progressive city and the Palo Verde valley, more than
100,000 acres of well maintained farmland producing crops
and livestock valued at over $100,000,000 a year.
The die was cast and a hardy group of determined pioneers
made the right decisions that have led to this
self-sufficient, proud community; all created in just over a
century. Blythe was incorporated on July 21, 1916.
Blythe is an agricultural community with tourism as a major
factor in its economy. Located on the California - Arizona
border, right on the Colorado River, Blythe has a population
of approximately 22,000 within the city limits, with a large
trade area in the valley of about 37,000. During the winter
months, with the influx of “winter visitors”, the trade area
more than triples. Blythe plays an important part in the
Quartzsite shows, which take place in January and February
with its 1100 motel rooms usually filled to capacity. The
area around Quartzsite grows from a summer population of
2,600 to over 250,000 during the winter months.
The elevation of Blythe is 265 feet above sea level. The
Palo Verde valley is surrounded by mountain ranges on a6ll
sides ranging up to nearly 2,000 feet to the north. They are
called The Big Maria’s to the north; The McCoy’s to the
West; The Palo Verde & Chocolate Mountains to the south; and
the Saw Tooth Mountains to the east. Unlike other parts of
Southern California, Blythe is one of the most seismically
stable cities in the Western states. There has not been an
earthquake centered here in over 500,000 years. The area
does have some thermal activity. When the water system for
the prisons were drilled, heated water of 108 degrees was
hit, which required cooling before use.