Irrigation Communities

map of Gila River and ancient canals
This map from our Visitor Center exhibits show some of the extensive prehistoric canals associated with the Casa Grande.


The walled compound where you are standing was just one community of a network of communities that were built along canal systems. An eagle flying high over this Gila River Valley 1,000 years ago would have seen dozens of villages with wide, irrigated fields.

Extended families usually shared rooms and open areas within a compound like the one you are in now. Several compounds grouped together made up a village. Villages along a network of canals worked together to keep the irrigation water flowing into the fields.

The largest villages were often found at beginning or end of canals. At these sites you will find ball courts, platform mounds and sometimes structures like the Casa Grande. Large sites were gathering places where people celebrated ceremonies and harvests.

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PDF of the wayside (26,450 KB) is available.


Last updated: March 18, 2024

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