Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff is a city in and the county seat of Coconino County[6] in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States. In 2015, the city's estimated population was 70,320.[7] Flagstaff's combined metropolitan area has an estimated population of 139,097. The city is named after a ponderosa pine flagpole made by a scouting party from Boston (known as the "Second Boston Party") to celebrate the United States Centennial on July 4, 1876.[8]

Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the continental United States.[9] Flagstaff is next to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m), is about 10 miles (16 km) north of Flagstaff in Kachina Peaks Wilderness.

Flagstaff's early economy was based on the lumber, railroad, and ranching industries. Today, the city remains an important distribution hub for companies such as Nestlé Purina PetCare, and is home to Lowell Observatory, The U.S. Naval Observatory, the United States Geological Survey Flagstaff Station, and Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff has a strong tourism sector, due to its proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, Oak Creek Canyon, the Arizona Snowbowl, Meteor Crater, and historic Route 66. The city is also a growing center for medical and biotechnology manufacturing, home to corporations such as SenesTech and W. L. Gore and Associates. [10][11]

City of Flagstaff
Downtown Flagstaff in 2000
Downtown Flagstaff in 2000
Official seal of City of Flagstaff

City of Seven Wonders, Dark Sky City
Location of Flagstaff in Coconino County, Arizona
Location of Flagstaff in Coconino County, Arizona
U.S. Census
U.S. Census
Flagstaff is located in Arizona
Location in the United States
Flagstaff is located in the United States
Flagstaff (the United States)
Coordinates: 35°11′57″N 111°37′52″W / 35.19917°N 111.63111°WCoordinates: 35°11′57″N 111°37′52″W / 35.19917°N 111.63111°W
Country United States
State Arizona
County Coconino
 • TypeCouncil-Manager
 • BodyFlagstaff City Council
 • MayorCoral Evans(I[1])
 • City64.74 sq mi (167.67 km2)
 • Land64.70 sq mi (167.58 km2)
 • Water0.04 sq mi (0.09 km2)
Elevation6,910 ft (2,106 m)
 • City65,870
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,104.45/sq mi (426.43/km2)
 • Metro
139,097 (US: 291st)
Demonym(s)Flagstonian or Flagstaffian
Time zoneUTC−7 (MST (no DST))
ZIP codes
86001-86005-86004, 86011
Area code(s)928
FIPS code04-23620
GNIS ID(s)28749, 29046
Major airportFlagstaff Pulliam Airport
InterstatesI-17 (AZ).svg I-40 (AZ).svg Business Loop 40.svg
U.S. HighwaysUS 89.svg US 180.svg
State RoutesArizona 89.svg


Flagstaff, AZ ca. 1899
Flagstaff ca. 1899; view of Post Office and other buildings on Terrace Street

There are several stories and legends about the origin of the city's name. Surveyors, prospectors, and investors had traveled through the area in the mid- to late-19th century, and the act of stripping a pine tree to fly an American flag has been attributed to several individuals over a twenty-year span. It is said that, because of the flag that was raised, the area surrounding it became known as Flagstaff.

The first permanent settlement was in 1876, when Thomas F. McMillan built a cabin at the base of Mars Hill on the west side of town. During the 1880s, Flagstaff began to grow, opening its first post office and attracting the railroad industry. The early economy was based on timber, sheep, and cattle. By 1886, Flagstaff was the largest city on the railroad line between Albuquerque and the west coast of the United States.[12] A circa 1900 diary entry by journalist Sharlot Hall described the houses in the city as a "third rate mining camp", with unkempt air and high prices of available goods.[13]

In 1894, Massachusetts astronomer Percival Lowell hired A. E. Douglass to scout an ideal site for a new observatory. Douglass, impressed by Flagstaff's elevation, named it as an ideal location for the now famous Lowell Observatory, saying: "other things being equal, the higher we can get the better".[14] Two years later, the specially designed 24-inch (610 mm) Clark telescope that Lowell had ordered was installed. In 1930, Pluto was discovered using one of the observatory's telescopes. In 1955 the U.S. Naval Observatory joined the growing astronomical presence, and established the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, where Pluto's satellite, Charon, was discovered in 1978.[15]

During the Apollo program in the 1960s, the Clark Telescope was used to map the moon for the lunar expeditions, enabling the mission planners to choose a safe landing site for the lunar modules.[16] In homage to the city's importance in the field of astronomy, asteroid 2118 Flagstaff is named for the city, and 6582 Flagsymphony for the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra.

NAU Old Main
Northern Arizona University's Old Main building

The Northern Arizona Normal School was established in 1899, renamed Northern Arizona University in 1966.[12] Flagstaff's cultural history received a significant boost on April 11, 1899, when the Flagstaff Symphony made its concert debut at Babbitt's Opera House. The orchestra continues today as the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, with its primary venue at the Ardrey Auditorium on the campus of Northern Arizona University.[17]

The city grew rapidly, primarily due to its location along the east–west transcontinental railroad line in the United States. In the 1880s, the railroads purchased land in the west from the federal government, which was then sold to individuals to help finance the railroad projects.[18]:65–67 By the 1890s, Flagstaff found itself along one of the busiest railroad corridors in the U.S., with 80–100 trains travelling through the city every day, destined for Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.[18]:96–97[19]

Old Coconino County Courthouse
Old Coconino County Courthouse from Birch Avenue, June 2005

Route 66 was completed in 1926 and ran through Flagstaff. Flagstaff was incorporated as a city in 1928,[12] and in 1929, the city's first motel, the Motel Du Beau, was built at the intersection of Beaver Street and Phoenix Avenue. The Daily Sun described the motel as "a hotel with garages for the better class of motorists." The units originally rented for $2.60 to $5.00 each, with baths, toilets, double beds, carpets, and furniture.[18]:244–245 Flagstaff went on to become a popular tourist stop along Route 66, particularly due to its proximity to the Grand Canyon.

Flagstaff grew and prospered through the 1960s. During the 1970s and 1980s, however, many businesses started to move from the city center, and the downtown area entered an economic and social decline. Sears and J.C. Penney left the downtown area in 1979 to open up as anchor stores in the new Flagstaff Mall, joined in 1986 by Dillard's. By 1987, the Babbitt Brothers Trading Company, a retail fixture in Flagstaff since 1891, closed its doors at Aspen Avenue and San Francisco Street.[18]:161–167

The Railroad Addition Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

In 1987, the city drafted a new master plan, also known as the Growth Management Guide 2000, which would transform downtown Flagstaff from a shopping and trade center into a regional center for finance, office use, and government. The city built a new city hall, library, and the Coconino County Administrative Building in the downtown district, staking an investment by the local government for years to come. In 1992, the city hired a new manager, Dave Wilcox, who had previously worked at revitalizing the downtown areas of Beloit, Wisconsin and Missoula, Montana. During the 1990s, the downtown area underwent a revitalization, many of the city sidewalks were repaved with decorative brick facing, and a different mix of shops and restaurants opened up to take advantage of the area's historical appeal.[18]

On October 24, 2001, Flagstaff was recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association as the world's first "International Dark-Sky City."[20][21]

In 2012, Flagstaff was officially named "America’s First STEM Community" (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) by Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours.[22][23]


Flagstaff is located at 35°11′57″N 111°37′52″W / 35.19917°N 111.63111°W.[24] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 63.9 square miles (165.5 km2), of which only 0.03 square miles (0.08 km2) (0.08%) is water.

At 7,000 feet (2,130 m) elevation, next to the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in North America, Flagstaff is on a mountain surrounded by volcanoes, in the heart of the Coconino national forest. Any type of desert climate can be found below its elevation 100 miles from Flagstaff.[25] The city is situated on the Rio de Flag, and is about 130 miles (210 km) north of Phoenix.


San Francisco Peaks from Flagstaff

Downtown Flagstaff lies immediately to the east of Mars Hill, the location of Lowell Observatory. Streets in the downtown area are laid out in a grid pattern, parallel to Route 66 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Rail Line, running east–west through the city. Milton Road branches off from Route 66 west of downtown, and travels south, adjacent to the Northern Arizona University campus, to the junction of Interstate 17 and Interstate 40. Milton Road becomes I-17. A road called Beulah Boulevard, which also runs south, becomes State Route 89A, and travels through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona. Traveling north from downtown, Fort Valley Road (U.S. 180) connects with the Museum of Northern Arizona, Arizona Snowbowl, and Grand Canyon National Park. Traveling east from downtown, Route 66 and the railroad run in parallel toward East Flagstaff (and beyond), at the base of Mount Elden. Much of Flagstaff's industry is east of downtown, adjacent to the railroad tracks, as well as in East Flagstaff.

Several towns are close to Flagstaff along Interstates 40 and 17. Approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) south are the small urban areas of Kachina Village (west of I-17) and Mountainaire (east of I-17; 2 miles (3.2 km)). About 35 miles (56 km) to the west is Williams, 20 miles (32 km) to the south is Munds Park, and 30 miles (48 km) to the south on Arizona Highway 89A is Sedona. 15 miles (24 km) to the east of Flagstaff is the town of Winona, mentioned in the famous song, Route 66.


Flagstaff is high desert and has a rather dry semi-continental climate (Köppen Dsb/Csb).[26] Flagstaff has five distinct seasons: a cold and snowy winter, with extended dry periods punctuated by deep snows about once every 3–4 weeks; a dry and windy spring with occasional snows; a very dry and warm early summer from May to early July; a wet monsoon season from July to early September; and a dry and pleasant fall which lasts until the first snows in November.

The combination of high elevation and low humidity provide mild weather conditions throughout most of the year. The predominantly clear air and high elevation radiates daytime heating effectively resulting in overnight temperatures generally much lower than the daytime temperature. This means a 55 degree day in January can drop to 15 at night. Winter nights in fact can be extremely cold, with temperatures dropping below 0 °F (−17.8 °C)[27] on 5 to 6 nights per year.

Winter weather patterns in Flagstaff are cyclonic and frontal in nature, originating in the eastern Pacific Ocean. These deliver periodic, widespread snowfall followed by extended periods of sunny weather. The area's generally stable weather pattern is broken by brief, but often intense, afternoon downpours and dramatic thunderstorms common during the monsoon of July and August. Summer temperatures are moderate and high temperatures average around 82 °F (27.8 °C).[12] Extreme temperatures range from −30 °F (−34.4 °C) on January 22, 1937 up to 97 °F (36.1 °C) on July 5, 1973, respectively.[28] The weather in Flagstaff is generally sunny, with much more sunshine than other snowy cities like New York City, Chicago, Boston and even Denver. Flagstaff is the only city in Arizona never to have reported temperatures of 100 °F (38 °C) or higher.[28]

The annual snowfall averages 100.3 inches (254.76 cm), placing Flagstaff among the snowiest incorporated cities in the United States.[29] Overall, the city features an average of 277 days without measurable precipitation each year. Despite snowstorms often being spread weeks apart, snow often covers the ground for weeks after major winter storms due to the low night temperatures refreezing the snowpack, even when daytime temperatures are above freezing. The highest recorded snowfall in a single day was 35.9 inches (91.19 cm) on February 21, 2019.[30] The maximum daily snow cover has been 83 inches (210.82 cm) on December 20, 1967, although the mean maximum for a full winter is only 20 inches (50.80 cm) and the lowest maximum only 6 inches (15.24 cm) in the dry winter of 1955–56. However, due to the infrequent and scattered nature of the snowstorms, persistent snow pack into spring is rare.[12] One notable exception occurred during the severe winter of 1915–16, when successive Pacific storms buried the city under over 70 inches (177.80 cm) of snow, and some residents were snowbound in their homes for several days.[31]

View of Flagstaff from Mars Hill


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201671,459[5]8.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[35]

According to the 2010 census, the population of the city was 65,870.[36] The population density was 831.9 people per square mile (321.2/km²). There were 26,254 housing units at an average density of 336.5 per square mile (129.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 73.4% White, 1.9% Black or African American, 11.7% Native American, 1.9% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 7.3% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. 18.4% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race. The city's African American population is considerably lower than the U.S. average (1.9% versus 12.6%), while the Native American population is markedly higher (11.7% vs. 0.9%). This is primarily attributable to the city's proximity to several Native American reservations, including the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, and Yavapai. Flagstaff's Native American community is chiefly Navajo, and there are about 5,500 people of Navajo ancestry living in the city.[37]

As of 2000, there were 19,306 households out of which 32.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.0% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% were non-families. 23.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.13.

The age distribution was 24.3% under the age of 18, 21.7% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 5.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 27 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,146, and the median income for a family was $48,427. Males had a median income of $31,973 versus $24,591 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,637. About 10.6% of families and 17.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.6% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over.

As a college town, Flagstaff's population is considerably more educated than the U.S. average. 89.8% of the population has a high school diploma or higher, while the national average is 80.4%. 39.4% of the population has a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the national average of 24.4%.


For 2012, the FBI's Uniform Crime Report indicated for Flagstaff a rate of 262 cases of violent crime per 100,000 population and 2,834 cases of property crime per 100,000 population.[38]

A 1988 Arizona state law made it a crime to be "present in a public place to beg." The Flagstaff Police Department and City Attorney aggressively enforced this law, which resulted in a First Amendment lawsuit filed on June 25, 2013. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of Food Not Bombs, in addition to three people who were arrested, threatened with arrest, or feared being arrested for "loitering to beg."[39] On October 4, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake overturned the law.[40]


BNSF train crossing BeaverSt
BNSF train travels through downtown Flagstaff. The rail and freight industries have long been a part of the city's economy.

In its early days, the city's economic base comprised the lumber, railroad, and ranching industries. Today, that has largely been replaced by tourism, education, government, and transportation. Some of the larger employers in Flagstaff are Northern Arizona University, the Flagstaff Medical Center, and the Flagstaff Unified School District. Tourism is a large contributor to the economy, as the city receives over 5 million visitors per year.[12]

Scientific and high tech research and development operations are in the city, including the Lowell Observatory, Northern Arizona University, the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station (NOFS) and the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Flagstaff campus. Lowell Observatory continues to be an active astronomical observatory and a popular visitors center which hosts educational displays and tours. It has a distributed network of small telescopes which together create images of celestial bodies with much higher resolutions than any other single telescope can produce. Research is involved in observations of near-Earth phenomena such as asteroids and comets. The observatory is also involved in a $30 million project with the Discovery Channel to build the Discovery Channel Telescope, a sophisticated, ground-based telescope with advanced optical capabilities for future projects.[41] Lowell Observatory and NOFS are also collaborators on the major project, the Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer, on nearby Anderson Mesa. NOFS is heavily involved with the science of star catalogs and astrometry, or the positions and distances of stars and celestial objects.

Purina PetCare building

There are five industrial parks in the city, situated near I-40 and I-17. Major manufacturers in Flagstaff include W. L. Gore & Associates, widely known as the maker of Gore-Tex; Nestlé Purina PetCare, manufacturer of pet food; SenesTech, a biotechnology research lab and manufacturer; SCA Tissue, a major tissue paper producer; and Joy Cone, manufacturer of ice cream cones.[10][42] Walgreens operated a distribution center in the city until 2014.[12][43][11]

With proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, the city also has a thriving travel and tourism industry, with numerous hotel and restaurant chains. The downtown area is home to two historic hotels, the Weatherford Hotel and the Hotel Monte Vista. The first hotel of the Ramada Inn chain opened in 1954 at the intersection of U.S. Routes 66, 89 and 89A adjacent to what was then Arizona State College (now Northern Arizona University). The original building is still intact, operating as a Super 8 Motel.[44]

Arts and culture

OrpheumTheater Flagstaff
The Orpheum Theater in downtown Flagstaff features a wide variety of concerts and other performances.

Flagstaff has an active cultural scene. The city is home to the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, which plays concerts from September through April at Ardrey Auditorium on the NAU campus.[17] The city also attracts folk and contemporary acoustic musicians, and offers several annual music festivals during the summer months, such as the Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music Festival, the Flagstaff Music Festival, and Pickin' in the Pines, a three-day bluegrass and acoustic music festival held at the Pine Mountain Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill Fairgrounds.[45][46][47] Popular bands play throughout the year at the Orpheum Theater, and free concerts are held during the summer months at Heritage Square.[48]

Flagstaff is home to an active theatre scene, featuring several groups. Northern Arizona University Department of Theatre is an active and successful theatre program that produces quality productions for the community as well as the campus. The department has won many prestigious awards including multiple invitations to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. NAU Theatre performs in two facilities including the Clifford E. White Theatre (named for long-time Theatre professor Clifford E. White) and the Studio Theatre. Both facilities are housed in the Fine and Performing Arts Building on campus. The season includes four mainstage and numerous second stage productions and a summer collaboration with Theatrikos Theatre Company. Theatrikos, a local community theater company, was founded in 1972 in the basement of the Weatherford Hotel, and today puts on six major productions per year. In 2002, the company moved into a new venue now known as the Doris-Harper White Community Playhouse, a downtown building which was built in 1923 as an Elks Lodge and later became the Flagstaff library.[49] Since 1995, the Flagstaff Light Opera Company has performed a variety of musical theatre and light opera productions throughout the year at the Sinagua Middle/School auditorium.[50] There are several dance companies in Flagstaff, including Coconino Community College Dance Program, Northern Arizona Preparatory Company and Canyon Movement, which present periodic concerts and collaborate with the Flagstaff Symphony for free concerts during the summer and holiday seasons.[51]

A variety of weekend festivals occur throughout the year. The annual Northern Arizona Book Festival, held in the spring, brings together nationally known authors to read and display their works.[52] The Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival is held every October, and features a variety of independent films and documentaries focusing on extreme sports, environmental issues, and global topics. The festival is four days long and consists of several sessions of films. The screenings are held at the Orpheum Theater in the historic downtown area.[53] The summer months feature several festivals, including Hopi and Navajo Festivals of Arts and Crafts, the Arizona Highland Celtic Festival, Pride in the Pines,[54] and the Made in the Shade Beer Tasting Festival.[55] For more than 20 years Flagstaff has hosted the 10-day Flagstaff Festival of Science in September. It is a family event which features open houses, lectures, informal talks, and hands-on activities at area museums, observatories, other scientific facilities, and the university. In-school programs also are an important part of the festival. The festival begins with the annual Eugene Shoemaker keynote address. Guest speakers have included famous astronauts, arctic explorers, storm chasers, and scientists from many disciplines. The Coconino County Fair is held every September at the Fort Tuthill County Fairgrounds, featuring a demolition derby, livestock auction, carnival rides, and other activities.[56]

Flagstaff New Year's Pine Cone Drop
Weatherford Hotel, New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve, people gather around the Weatherford Hotel as a 70-pound, 6-foot (1.8 m) tall, metallic pine cone is dropped from the roof at midnight. The tradition originated in 1999, when Henry Taylor and Sam Green (owners of the Weatherford Hotel), decorated a garbage can with paint, lights, and pine cones, and dropped it from the roof of their building to mark the new millennium. By 2003 the event had become tradition, and the current metallic pine cone was designed and built by Frank Mayorga of Mayorga Welding in Flagstaff.[57]

The Museum of Northern Arizona includes displays of the biology, archeology, photography, anthropology, and native art of the Colorado Plateau. The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a 200-acre (81 ha) arboretum featuring 2,500 species of drought-tolerant native plants representative of the high-desert region.[58][59]

Route 66, which originally ran between Chicago and Los Angeles, greatly increased the accessibility to the area, and enhanced the culture and tourism in Flagstaff.[60] Route 66 remains a historic route, passing through the city between Barstow, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. In early September, the city hosts an annual event, Route 66 Days, to highlight its connection to the famous highway.[61]


Flagstaff NAU Skydome
Northern Arizona University's Walkup Skydome, home to Lumberjack football, basketball, and other collegiate sports

There are no major-league professional sports teams based in Flagstaff. However, from 1988 to 2012 (with the exception of the 2005 season, due to an outbreak of a flu-like virus), the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League held their summer training camp at Northern Arizona University.[62] The NAU training camp location has been cited as one of the top five training camps in the NFL by Sports Illustrated.[63] The Cardinals left Flagstaff in summer 2013.[64]

Northern Arizona University sponsors 15 sports at the Division I level, including a football team that competes at the Division I Football Championship Series level. All sports are members of the Big Sky Conference with the exception of the Women's Swimming & Diving team, which competes in the Western Athletic Conference. The Men's Cross Country team has featured four straight top ten finishes at the NCAA Division I Cross Country championships, which are held each year in Terre Haute, Indiana. The track and field team is home to several All-Americans including NCAA Champion/Olympian Lopez Lomong, two time NCAA Champion David McNeill and All-American/ 2012 Olympian Diego Estrada.

Parks and outdoor recreation

Humphreys Peak AZ
Humphreys Peak, north of Flagstaff

Flagstaff has acquired a reputation as a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, and the region's varied terrain, high elevation, and amenable weather attract campers, backpackers, climbers, recreation and elite runners, and mountain bikers from throughout the southwestern United States. There are 679.2 acres (274.9 ha) of city parks in Flagstaff, the largest of which are Thorpe Park and Buffalo Park. Wheeler Park, next to city hall, is the location of summer concerts and other events.[65] The city maintains an extensive network of trails, the Flagstaff Urban Trails System, or "FUTS" includes more than 50 miles of paved and unpaved trails for hiking, running, and cycling. The trail network extends throughout the city and is widely used for both recreation and transportation.[66]

The area is a recreational hub for road cycling and mountain biking clubs, organized triathlon events, and annual cross country ski races. Several major river running operators are headquartered in Flagstaff, and the city serves as a base for Grand Canyon and Colorado River expeditions.[67]

Flagstaff's proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, about 75 miles (121 km) north of the city, has made it a popular tourist destination since the mid-19th century. Other nearby outdoor attractions include Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, and Barringer Crater. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell are both about 135 mi (217 km) north along U.S. Route 89. [68]

Dark Sky City

Bonito Park (34664189092)
Vista of the Milky Way above Bonito Park in 2017

Flagstaff takes one of its nicknames from its legislative designation as the world's first International Dark Sky City, a deliberate dark sky preserve area with measures to reduce light pollution. This was one of the world's first coordinated legislative efforts to do so. In the city there has been over fifty years of planning and development,[69] with the full support of the ecologically-aware population and community advocates, frequent government support, and the assistance of major observatories in the area — including the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station and Lowell Observatory.[70][71][72][73] Each component helps to educate, protect and enforce the imperatives to intelligently reduce detrimental light pollution.

The city's designation as an International Dark Sky City was on October 24, 2001, by the International Dark-Sky Association, after a proposal by the city's own Dark Sky Coalition to start the preserve program. It is seen as a world precedent in dark sky preservation.[74] Before this, it had been nicknamed the "Skylight City" back in the 1890s, the same decade that the Lowell Observatory opened.[75] In 1958, it passed Ordinance 400,[69] which outlawed using large or powerful searchlights within city limits. In the 1980s a series of measures were introduced for the city and Coconino County, and the Dark Sky Coalition was founded in 1999 by Chris Luginbuhl and Lance Diskan. Luginbuhl is a former U.S. Naval astronomer,[76] and Diskan had originally moved to Flagstaff from Los Angeles so that his children could grow up able to see stars, saying that "part of being human is looking up at the stars and being awestruck."[75] It was reported in an award-winning article[77] that even though greater restrictions on types of public lighting were introduced in 1989,[78] requiring them all to be low-emission, some public buildings like gas stations hadn't updated by 2002, after the Dark Sky designation.[77]

Flagstaff and the surrounding area is split into four zones, each permitted different levels of light emissions. The highest restrictions are in south and west Flagstaff (near NAU and its observatory), and at the Naval, Braeside, and Lowell Observatories.[77] Photographs detecting emissions taken in 2017 show that Flagstaff's light is 14 times less than another Western city of comparable size, Cheyenne, Wyoming, which Luginbuhl described as "even better than [they] might have expected".[76]


Flagstaff city hall
Flagstaff City Hall, bounded by Route 66, Humphreys Street, Aspen Avenue and Sitgreaves Avenue

Flagstaff is the county seat of Coconino County.

The city government is organized under a council-manager form of government.[79] The mayor of Flagstaff is Coral Evans, who was elected in November 2016, and the town council consists of the mayor and six councilmembers: Jamie Whelan (vice mayor), Celia Barotz, Jim McCarthy, Jeff Oravits, Charlie Odegard, and Eva Putzova.[80] The city manager is Interim City Manager Barbara Goodrich.[81] Regular meetings of the city council are held on the first and third Tuesday of every month.[82]

At the state level, Flagstaff is in the 6th legislative district. In the Arizona State Senate, the 6th is represented by Sylvia Allen (R) of Snowflake, AZ. In the House of Representatives, the 6th is represented by Bob Thorpe (R) of Flagstaff, AZ and Brenda Barton (R) of Payson, AZ.

At the federal level, Flagstaff is within Arizona's 1st congressional district, which is the tenth largest congressional district, covering nearly 60,000 sq. miles. The district is represented by Tom O'Halleran (D) of Sedona, AZ.


There are 19 public schools, with 11,500 students and 800 faculty and staff, in the Flagstaff Unified School District. In 1997, Mount Elden Middle School was named an A+ School, citing an outstanding school climate, progressive use of technology and zero-tolerance approach to discipline. The 1999 National Science Teacher of the Year, David Thompson, teaches physics at Coconino High School.[83] Three Arizona Teachers of the Year from 2001 through 2003 teach at Flagstaff High School.[84]

In addition to the numerous public schools, there are several charter schools operating in the Flagstaff area including Flagstaff Junior Academy, Northland Preparatory Academy (ranked No. 52 in USA News's America's Top 100 Best High Schools), the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, Pine Forest Charter School, BASIS Flagstaff (ranked No. 2 in The Washington Post's America's Most Challenging High schools) and the Montessori Schools of Flagstaff.

Flagstaff is home to two institutions of higher education, Northern Arizona University (one of the three public state universities in Arizona) and Coconino Community College.


Flagstaff train station
Former Santa Fe depot, now Amtrak station, on Route 66 near downtown


Downtown Flagstaff (7177849494)
Intersection of Route 66 and San Francisco Street
AT&SF 2772 in Flagstaff, AZ in November 1985 (28903617965)
Train coming through Flagstaff in November 1985

Flagstaff is at the northern terminus of Interstate 17, which runs 145 miles (233 km) south to Phoenix. Interstate 40 runs east–west through the city, traveling to Barstow, California in the west and Albuquerque, New Mexico (and beyond) in the east. Historic Route 66 also runs east–west through the city, roughly parallel to I-40, and is a major thoroughfare for local traffic. Butler Avenue connects I-40 with downtown Flagstaff, and the major north–south thoroughfare through town is Milton Road. State Route 89A travels through the city (concurrently as parts of Milton Rd. and Route 66), going south through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona.

The major rail corridor running through Flagstaff is the Southern Transcon, originally built by the Santa Fe Railway and now owned and operated by the BNSF Railway. Passenger rail service is provided by Amtrak at the downtown station, connecting on east–west routes to Los Angeles and Albuquerque via the Southwest Chief line.[85] Amtrak also provides connecting Thruway Motorcoach service via Open Road Tours, which has an office inside the Flagstaff depot.[86] Local bus service is provided throughout the city by the Mountain Line.

Air travel is available through Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (IATA: FLG, ICAO: KFLG, FAA LID: FLG), just south of the city. The airport is primarily a small, general aviation airport with a single 6,999 feet (2,133 m) runway. The airport finished a major expansion project to add 1,800 feet (550 m) to the north end of the runway and lengthen the taxiway in 2007. The primary purpose of the project was to increase its viability for commercial and regional jets.[87] Service to connecting flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (IATA: PHX, ICAO: KPHX, FAA LID: PHX) is provided by American Airlines operated by Mesa Airlines.[87]

Flagstaff is fairly bike-friendly; there are bike lanes on many major streets,[88] and the Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS) includes more than 50 miles of off-street trails that wind throughout the community.[89] In 2006 Flagstaff was designated a Bicycle-Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.[90] About nine percent of trips in Flagstaff are made by bicycle.[88]


Electricity generation in Flagstaff is provided by Arizona Public Service, an electric utility subsidiary operated by parent company Pinnacle West. The primary generating station near Flagstaff is the coal-fired, 995-MW Cholla Power Plant, near Holbrook, Arizona, which uses coal from the McKinley Mine in New Mexico. Near Page, Arizona is the coal-fired, 750-MW Navajo Power Plant, supplied by an electric railroad that delivers coal from a mine on the Navajo and Hopi reservations in northern Arizona.[91] Flagstaff is also home to Arizona's first commercial solar power generating station, which was built in 1997 and provides 87 kW of electricity. Combined with 16 other solar power locations in Arizona, the system provides over 5 MW of electricity statewide.[92]

Drinking water in Flagstaff is produced from conventional surface water treatment at the Lake Mary Water Treatment Plant, on Upper Lake Mary, as well as from springs at the inner basin of the San Francisco Peaks. Groundwater from several water wells throughout the city and surrounding area provide additional sources of drinking water.[93] Water and wastewater services are provided by the City of Flagstaff.

Natural gas is provided by UniSource Energy Services. CenturyLink QC is the incumbent local exchange carrier.[94] Cable television service is offered by Suddenlink Communications.[95]

Health care

The city's primary hospital is the 267-bed Flagstaff Medical Center, on the north side of downtown Flagstaff. The hospital was founded in 1936, and serves as the major regional trauma center for northern Arizona.

Media and popular culture

US 66 Arizona 1926
The Route 66 sign until the 1940s

The major daily newspaper in Flagstaff is the Arizona Daily Sun. Northern Arizona University's weekly newspaper The Lumberjack also covers Flagstaff news, while the other publications that serve the city include weeklies Flagstaff Live and the Navajo Hopi Observer, and monthlies Mountain Living Magazine and The Noise.

Several radio stations operate in the area, some of which operate transmitters in Prescott as well.

Flagstaff is included in the Phoenix Designated market area (DMA), the 13th largest in the U.S.[96] Over-the-air television service is provided mostly by low-powered repeaters of the Phoenix stations.[97] There is one local broadcast television station serving the city, KFPH-13 (TeleFutura).

In the early 20th century, the city was considered as a site for the film The Squaw Man by Jesse Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille, but was abandoned in favor of Hollywood.[98] Scenes from the 1969 film Easy Rider were filmed on Milton Road and Route 66 as well as near Sunset crater. In 1983 a moment in the film National Lampoon's Vacation was filmed at a truck stop gas station near Little America Hotel. Several recent movies have been filmed, at least in part, in Flagstaff. A small scene in Midnight Run was filmed in Flagstaff at the train depot, the city was also referenced in the film. Several of the running scenes in Forrest Gump were filmed in and around the area, including a memorable scene in which Forrest is seen jogging in downtown Flagstaff and gives inspiration to a bumper sticker designer ("Shit happens"). Parts of 2007 Academy Award winner Little Miss Sunshine were filmed at the junction of I-40 and I-17 in Flagstaff, and Terminal Velocity was partially filmed in the city.[99]

During the 1940s and 1950s, over 100 western movies were filmed in nearby Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. The Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff hosted many film stars during this era, including Jane Russell, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, and Bing Crosby. A scene from the movie Casablanca was filmed in one of the rooms of the hotel.[100]

In 2005, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built a home just outside Flagstaff for slain soldier Lori Piestewa's two children and parents. Grizzly Peak Films also filmed Sasquatch Mountain, a feature-length film for the Science Fiction Channel about a Yeti, in Flagstaff and nearby Williams.[101] In December 2007, talk show hostess Ellen DeGeneres selected Flagstaff as the winner of her show's "Wish You Were Here" contest.[102]

Sister cities

Flagstaff has five sister cities:[103]

See also


  1. ^ Official records for Flagstaff were kept at the Weather Bureau in downtown from 8 September 1898 to 11 January 1950, and at Pulliam Airport since 12 January 1950. For more information, see ThreadEx


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External links


56P/Slaughter–Burnham is a periodic comet in the Solar System with a period of 11.54 years.It was discovered in 1959 by Charles D. Slaughter and Robert Burnham of the Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona during a photographic survey. They spotted the comet, with a faint brightness of magnitude 16, on a plate exposed on 10 December 1958. By monitoring its movement over a series of consecutive days, Elizabeth Roemer was able to calculate its orbit, suggesting a perihelion date of 4 August 1958 and an orbital period of 11.18 years.

It was subsequently observed in 1970, 1981, 1993 and 2005. Its next perihelion will be on 18 July 2018.

Anderson Mesa Station

Anderson Mesa Station is an astronomical observatory established in 1959 as a dark-sky observing site for Lowell Observatory. It is located at Anderson Mesa in Coconino County, Arizona (USA), about 12 miles southeast of Lowell's main campus on Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Arizona State Route 89A

State Route 89A (SR 89A) is an 83.85-mile (134.94 km) state highway that runs from Prescott north to Flagstaff in the U.S. state of Arizona. The highway begins at SR 89 and heads northward from Prescott, entering Jerome. From Jerome, the route then heads to Cottonwood and Sedona. The highway is notable for its scenic value as it passes through Sedona and the Oak Creek Canyon. The route then enters Flagstaff, where it crosses Interstate 17 (I-17) and I-40. The highway ends at I-40 Business in Flagstaff. What is now SR 89A became a state highway in the late 1920s as SR 79. The highway was extended and improved several times through 1938. SR 79 was renumbered to U.S. Route 89A (US 89A) in 1941 and then to SR 89A in the early 1990s.

Coconino County, Arizona

Coconino County is a county located in the north central part of the U.S. state of Arizona. The population was 134,421 at the 2010 census. The county seat is Flagstaff. The county takes its name from Cohonino, a name applied to the Havasupai. It is the second-largest county by area in the contiguous United States, behind San Bernardino County, California, with its 18,661 square miles (48,300 km2), or 16.4% of Arizona's total area, making it larger than each of the nine smallest states.

Coconino County comprises the Flagstaff, Arizona Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Coconino County contains Grand Canyon National Park, the Havasupai Nation, and parts of the Navajo Nation, Hualapai Nation, and Hopi Nation. It has a relatively large Native American population at nearly 30% of the county's total population, being mostly Navajo with smaller numbers of Havasupai, Hopi, and others.

The county was the setting for George Herriman's early-20th-century Krazy Kat comic strip.

Coconino County Community College

Coconino Community College (CCC) is a community college serving Coconino County in the northern part of the U.S. state of Arizona. CCC is a college that serves more than 7,500 learners annually.Coconino Community College opened as Coconino County Community College on July 1, 1991 in a shopping center at the top of Fourth Street. The first day of classes were in late August 1991. On January 4, 2002, the Lone Tree campus in Flagstaff, AZ opened.Today the college offers more than 50 associate degrees and certificates. Scholarships are available through the CCC Foundation. The main campus is in Flagstaff, Arizona, with other college locations in Fredonia, Page, Tuba City, and Williams. CCC works with Northern Arizona University and the major employers in the area in meeting training, workforce and university transfer needs.

Flagstaff Mall

Flagstaff Mall is a regional shopping mall located in Flagstaff, Arizona, is operated by Cypress Equities. The mall opened in 1979, and is anchored by Dillard's and JCPenney.


KMGN (93.9 FM) is an American commercial mainstream rock music radio station in Flagstaff, Arizona, United States, broadcasting to the Flagstaff-Prescott, Arizona area.


KNAU (88.7 FM) is a radio station broadcasting classical music and news/talk and information format. Licensed to Flagstaff, Arizona, United States, KNAU and its sister stations serve the northern Arizona area. The station is currently owned by Northern Arizona University and features programming from National Public Radio, Public Radio International, and American Public Media, among other content providers.

In its early days in the 1960s, it was an unlicensed, low-power AM station, using cobbled-together, non-standard transmitting equipment located on the top of Sechrist Hall dormitory. The format of the station was nominally Top-40 and was entirely student-run, with oversight from a faculty adviser. It solicited advertising to supplement its operating budget. The additional revenue enabled the station to pay nominal salaries to several student staff members.

A prank on-air announcement dismissing classes early for Christmas break due to weather alerted the school's administration to the fact that many students listened to the station. Alarmed and fearing repercussions from higher authorities, in 1969 university officials disbanded the over-the-air feature, sending the signal through carrier current only to on-campus buildings, though that lasted but a few years.

The current KNAU signed on in 1983. Originally licensed as KAXR, it changed its call sign to KNAU before going on the air.


KNOT (1450 AM) is a radio station licensed to Prescott, Arizona. Its signal is relayed on FM translators K280GH (103.9) Prescott, Arizona and K300CI (107.9) Flagstaff, Arizona. In October 2015 KNOT changed their format from oldies to Contemporary Christian music, branded as "Arizona Shine".


KPUB (91.7 FM) is a radio station broadcasting a News Talk Information format. Licensed to Flagstaff, Arizona, United States, it serves the Flagstaff area. The station is currently owned by Northern Arizona University and features programming from National Public Radio and Public Radio International.

The station signed on in 2001, and airs an extended schedule of NPR news and talk programming, including a number of programs that had never previously aired in northern Arizona before. It acts as a complement to the area's flagship NPR station, KNAU, which airs a mix of NPR news and classical music.


KSED (107.5 FM is a radio station licensed to Sedona, Arizona and serving the Flagstaff-Prescott, Arizona area. Owned by Stone Canyon Media Group, the station broadcasts a country music format.

Katie Pavlich

Catherine Merri "Katie" Pavlich (born July 10, 1988) is an American conservative commentator, author, blogger, and podcaster.

List of historic properties in Flagstaff, Arizona

This is a list, which includes a photographic gallery, of some of the remaining historic buildings, houses, bridges, structures and monuments in Flagstaff, Arizona, some of which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Also included is a photographic gallery of the Two Spot Logging Train which is listed in the NRHP and the Flagstaff Station.

Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, United States. Lowell Observatory was established in 1894, placing it among the oldest observatories in the United States, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. In 2011, the Observatory was named one of "The World's 100 Most Important Places" by TIME. It was at the Lowell Observatory that the dwarf planet Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh.

The observatory was founded by astronomer Percival Lowell of Boston's Lowell family and is overseen by a sole trustee, a position historically handed down through the family. The first trustee was Lowell's third cousin Guy Lowell (1916–1927). Percival's nephew Roger Putnam served from 1927 to 1967, followed by Roger's son Michael (1967–1987), Michael's brother William Lowell Putnam III (1987–2013), and current trustee W. Lowell Putnam.

Multiple astronauts attended the Lowell Observatory while the moon was being mapped for the Apollo Program. The training was in session in 1963.The observatory operates several telescopes at three locations in the Flagstaff area. The main facility, located on Mars Hill just west of downtown Flagstaff, houses the original 61-centimeter (24-inch) Clark Refracting Telescope, which is now used for public education, with 85,000 annual visitors. The telescope, built in 1896 for $20,000, was assembled in Boston by Alvan Clark & Sons and then shipped by train to Flagstaff. Also located on the Mars Hill campus is the 33-centimeter (13-inch) Pluto Discovery Telescope, used by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 to discover the dwarf planet Pluto.

In 2014, the 8,000 square foot Observatory was opened. This observatory included many rooms with tools that were useful to observers including a library for research, a room for processing, photographic glass plates, multiple antique instruments used by previous astronomers, and many artifacts. The observatory does contain areas that are closed to the public view, although there are multiple places that tourists are welcome to visit. Lowell Observatory currently operates four research telescopes at its Anderson Mesa dark-sky site, located 20 km (12 mi) southeast of Flagstaff, including the 180-centimeter (72-inch) Perkins Telescope (in partnership with Boston University) and the 110-centimeter (42-inch) John S. Hall Telescope. Lowell is a partner with the United States Naval Observatory and Naval Research Laboratory in the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI) also located at that site. The Observatory also operates smaller research telescopes at its historic site on Mars Hill and in Australia and Chile.

Past Anderson Mesa, on the peak of Happy Jack, Lowell Observatory has also built and is commissioning the 4.28-meter (169-inch) Discovery Channel Telescope in partnership with Discovery Communications, Inc.

Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University (NAU) is a public research university with its main campus in Flagstaff, Arizona. Governed by the Arizona Board of Regents and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the university offers 158 baccalaureate and graduate degree programs.

As of fall 2017, 31,057 students were enrolled, 22,376 at the Flagstaff campus. The average cost of tuition and fees for a full-time, Arizona resident undergraduate student for two semesters is $11,896, and out-of-state undergraduates pay an estimated $26516. NAU also participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program, which offers lower tuition rates for students from the Western United States. For 2018–19, WUE tuition and fees are $16,759. NAU offers Flagstaff undergraduate students the Pledge Program, which guarantees the same tuition rate for four years.

NAU rated No. 96 in the National Science Foundation’s 2018 national research ranking of universities without a medical school and No. 201 overall. According to the global university rankings published by Times Higher Education in 2018, NAU ranked among the top 500 universities in the world and in the top 10 percent worldwide for the frequency of citations of its research by other researchers. The Center for World University Rankings places Northern Arizona University in the top 2.9 percent of degree-granting institutions of higher education worldwide.

NAU is the state leader in setting up remote campuses, where classes are often delivered via a video link. The oldest branch campus, and the largest, is NAU Yuma.

Orpheum Theater (Flagstaff, Arizona)

The Orpheum Theater is an old movie house in Flagstaff, Arizona, originally named the Majestic Opera House. The building was constructed in 1911. It was rebuilt and expanded in 1917, and renamed the Orpheum. The theater closed in 1999. Three years later, in 2002, it reopened as a concert venue. It is owned by Chris Scully and Charles Smith.

Percival Lowell

Percival Lawrence Lowell (; March 13, 1855 – November 12, 1916) was an American businessman, author, mathematician, and astronomer who fueled speculation that there were canals on Mars. He founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona and formed the beginning of the effort that led to the discovery of Pluto 14 years after his death.

Riordan Mansion State Historic Park

Riordan Mansion State Historic Park is a historic site in the Kinlichi Knoll neighborhood of Flagstaff, Arizona, bordering Northern Arizona University.

Walkup Skydome

The J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome is an indoor multipurpose stadium located on the campus of Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, Arizona. It is primarily used as the home of the NAU Lumberjacks football and both men's and women's basketball teams of the Big Sky Conference. The seating capacity is 11,230, with 10,000 permanent seats and 1,230 seats in portable bleachers.

Climate data for Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, Arizona (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1898–present)[a]
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 66
Average high °F (°C) 42.5
Average low °F (°C) 17.3
Record low °F (°C) −30
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.05
Average snowfall inches (cm) 23.2
trace 1.5
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 7.6 8.1 8.2 5.8 4.5 2.6 11.6 14.0 7.9 5.5 4.9 7.0 87.7
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 7.5 6.9 6.6 3.0 0.8 0 0 0 0 0.6 3.0 6.5 34.9
Average relative humidity (%) 61.9 59.5 54.9 46.5 39.4 33.6 51.1 58.1 54.7 52.6 56.9 60.6 52.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 231.7 228.6 286.3 321.0 369.5 371.8 324.2 311.9 298.5 282.8 229.3 219.8 3,475.4
Percent possible sunshine 74 75 77 82 85 86 73 75 80 81 74 72 78
Source: NOAA (relative humidity 1961–1990, sun 1973–1990)[32][33][34]
Municipalities and communities of Coconino County, Arizona, United States
Indian reservations
Ghost towns
County seats of Arizona

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