La Paz, Arizona

La Paz (Yavapai: Wi:hela) was a short-lived, early gold mining town along the Colorado River in La Paz County on the western border of the U.S. state of Arizona. It was the location of the La Paz Incident in 1863, the westernmost confrontation of the American Civil War. The town was settled in 1862 in New Mexico Territory, before the Arizona Territory was officially declared a United States territory by President Abraham Lincoln.[2] Today it is a deserted ghost town. In 1983, long after the town was deserted, the name was adopted by the newly formed Arizona county of La Paz. La Paz is Spanish for "peace"; the town was presumably named after another earlier town named La Paz, such as La Paz, Bolivia, or La Paz, Baja California Sur.

La Paz, Arizona
La Paz
Location in the state of Arizona
La Paz
La Paz (the United States)
Coordinates: 33°40′45″N 114°25′35″W
CountryUnited States
CountyLa Paz
Founded1862, before Arizona was officially declared a territory by President Abraham Lincoln
Elevation584 ft (178 m)
Time zoneUTC-7 (MST (no DST))
Post Office openedJanuary 17, 1865
Post Office closedMarch 25, 1875


Mountain man Pauline Weaver discovered gold in the vicinity in January 1862, starting the Colorado River gold rush. La Paz grew up in the spring of 1862 along the Colorado River to serve the miners washing placer gold in the La Paz Mining District. This district produced about 50,000 troy ounces of gold per year in 1863 and 1864.[3] La Paz had a population of 1,500 and was a stage stop between Fort Whipple, Arizona and San Bernardino, California.[4] The town was the county seat of Yuma County from 1864 to 1870, and as the largest town in the territory in 1863 was considered for the Arizona territorial capital.

The placers were largely exhausted by 1863, but the community hung on as a shipping port for steamboats of the Colorado River and supply base until the Colorado River shifted its course westward in 1866, leaving La Paz landlocked. The shipping business was taken over by a new river town, Ehrenberg, six miles south. In 1870 the population of La Paz had declined to 254.[5]:43 In 1871 the county seat was moved to Arizona City, later renamed Yuma in 1873. The county records were shipped to Yuma by Captain Polhamus in the Nina Tilden.[6][7]:238 Soon La Paz became deserted and as peaceful as its name.[8][9]

Today nothing remains of La Paz except a couple of crumbling stone foundations and a historical marker.[9]

See also

  • Steamboat transport on the Colorado River


La Paz is located at 33°40′45″N 114°25′35″W, at an elevation of 584 feet (178 m) above sea level.[1]


  1. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: La Paz (historical)
  2. Wagoner, Jay J. (1970). Arizona 1863-1912: A Political History. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-0176-9
  3. Maureen G. Johnson, 1972, Placer Gold Deposits of Arizona, Geological Survey Bulletin 1355, p.77.
  4. Eldred D. Wilson, (1961) Gold Placers and Placering in Arizona, Arizona Geological Survey, Bulletin 168, PDF File, p.25.
  5. Richard Josiah Hinton, The Handbook to Arizona: Its Resources, History, Towns, Mines, Ruins, and Scenery, Payot, Upham & Company, San Francisco, 1878
  6. Walker, Henry (1986). "Historical Atlas of Arizona", p.32. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. ISBN 978-0806120249
  7. Will Croft Barnes, Arizona Place Names, University of Arizona Press, 1988
  8. Gerald Thompson (1985) "Is there a gold field east of the Colorado?" the La Paz gold rush of 1862, Historical Society of Southern California, v.67, n.4, p.345-363.
  9. "National Park Service - Prospector, Cowhand, and Sodbuster (Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings)". 2005-05-22. Retrieved 2010-07-31.
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