Ajo is located in Pima County in southwestern Arizona. The town is 135 miles west of Tucson and 112 miles south of Phoenix. The Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation, which is the second largest Indian reservation in Arizona, is southeast of Ajo. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a park known for its cacti and desert landscapes, is southwest of town.Continue Reading
The first settlers of Ajo were members of the Tohono O'odham tribe, who acquired water from local potholes and made red paint from the pigments in desert rocks. The rocks around Ajo are rich in copper ore, and Spaniards mined the area in the early 1800s. However, Indian raids later forced the Spanish to abandon the mine.
American prospectors came to Ajo in search of copper in the mid-1800s. The Arizona Mining & Trading Company opened a mine in the area, but it soon went out of business. In the early 1900s, the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company opened a large open-pit copper mine, which soon became the main employer in town. The mine closed in 1983 due to strikes and a fall in the price of copper.
Since the closure of the copper mine, Ajo has rebranded itself as a retirement destination and rebuilt its economy around tourism and the arts. The International Sonoran Desert Alliance, a local nonprofit, works to revitalize the area's culture, preserve the local environment and provide job education for residents. The group has renovated the historic plaza in the center of town and converted a former school into an arts center that offers workshops, performances and living space for artists.Learn more about Geography