The first people/culture to wander the mountains of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve are the Archaic People. From 7000 BCE – 400 CE, they were wandering bands of hunters and gatherers who lived on the fruits, seeds, and animals they could obtain in the mountains and surrounding foothills. They did not depend on agriculture for their subsistence.
The next people/culture to inhabit these mountains were the Hohokam. From 100 – 1450 CE, they created extensive towns/settlements in the Valley where Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe and Scottsdale exist today. They settled mostly near rivers and developed extensive canal systems in order to raise crops like corn, beans, squash and cotton. They also needed fruits, seeds and meat, so they would hunt and gather here much like the Archaic people.
The Hohokam culture began to fade around 1400 to 1450 CE, and was replaced by the Yavapai and Apache cultures. The Yavapai came here from around Sedona or perhaps somewhat west of there. The Apache came from the northwest – where the states of Washington and Oregon exist today. Like the Archaic people, they were primarily hunters and gatherers.
Toward the end of the Civil War the United States government began sending large numbers of troops to the western states like Arizona to suppress the Native American nations and open the land for development of mining, ranching and farming.
Ft. McDowell was built in 1865, immediately east of the McDowell Mountains. The fort, and later the mountains, were named for a Civil War general – Irvin McDowell. Troops from the fort were used to suppress the local Yavapai and Apache bands.
As the local Yavapai and Apache bands were suppressed and confined to reservations, the McDowell Mountains and surrounding valleys became safe for cattle ranching, farming and mining. In 1888, a retired military chaplain, Winfield Scott, moved here and founded the settlement of Scottsdale.
Between 1939 and 1945, an event occurred that would have a profound impact on our area’s population growth: World War Two. During the 1940s there were several flight training facilities built in and near Scottsdale. Several aircraft related industries and defense contractors also relocated their production facilities to the Valley. After the war, many young men who had trained here and learned to love the Sonoran Desert winters decided to return and live here permanently. The population of Scottsdale grew from 2,000 in 1950 to 225,000 in 2000.