The state of Arizona has done a good job of building memorials to honor the legacy of the USS Arizona.
One of these is located in Scottsdale and it is the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River. It’s a beautiful site worth checking out, especially around sunrise or during twilight.
In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to prepare for your visit and make the most of it.
What is the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River in Phoenix?
The USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River is an outdoor display that comes to life at night while paying respect to those who were on board the USS Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attacks when over 1,000 people lost their life. It’s one of several USS Arizona memorials found in the state of Arizona.
Where is the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens?
The address for the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River is: 7455 N Pima Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85258.
It is located right by the Great Wolf Lodge Water Park and the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
You can park at a large parking lot right next to the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens entrance (the Salt River Fields home plate lot) which offers free parking.
There is no admission fee and it is open from dawn to dusk. The website states the hours are 7 AM to 7 PM but we visited (along with several others) after 8 PM without any problems.
Visiting the Phoenix USS Arizona Memorial Gardens
I’d recommend you begin your visit by going straight to the main structure located in the middle of the garden, near the water.
As you wander through this memorial, notice some of the features like the ground pavers, raised planters, and the gathering circle, which come from the Salt River Indian Community’s influence on the project.
Just outside the main structure, you’ll find interpretive panels giving you an overview of the attack and salvage operations.
The salvage efforts, which would end up taking a few years to complete, included over 5,000 dives and removal of huge 14″ guns, .50 caliber machine guns, and as much ammunition that they could possibly save.
Sometimes the salvage efforts got risky. For example, during the diver retrieval efforts, the divers faced underwater explosions due to trapped oxygen and oil fumes.
The main structure houses a USS Arizona relic in a clear, temperature controlled case.
During open hours, you can enter the structure to get a close view of the relic. But even if the structure is not open you can still see it from the outside clearly, even in the dark.
The relic is known as the “boathouse relic” and it’s a pretty large structure about 12ft x 5ft x 7ft.
Back in 2018, it was given to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and its American Legion Post 114 and a garden was built around it. (The full gardens opened up in February 2020.)
This relic is a significant and historic structure because it served as the original temporary memorial at the site in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where the USS Arizona was sunk.
The planks you see inside were used for a visitor staging area but after about a decade the temporary memorial was found to be too unstable.
Eventually, the Navy committed to creating a permanent memorial and The Pacific War Memorial Commission was created in 1949.
After plans were slightly derailed due to the Korean War, the permanent memorial was designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis and was formally dedicated on May 30, 1962 (Memorial Day).
If you make it inside, it looks like there are some additional exhibits to check out like a detailed blueprint of the USS Arizona.
Just outside of the relic room there is a beautiful row of suspended stacked blocks with each block containing the name and rank of a person aboard the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941.
Panels give a timeline of the first 85 minutes of the attack and tell stories of the survivors.
After you check out the main structure, you’ll want to explore the columns.
There are over 1,500 columns and they outline the perimeter of the USS Arizona with the exact length and width measurements.
It’s kind of difficult to fully appreciate from the ground level but if you had an aerial view of it you would be able to clearly make out the outline of the ship. It’s actually pretty impressive.
(The idea is very similar to the profile of the USS Arizona found at the University of Arizona’s memorial in Tucson.)
During your visit, I’d recommend strolling through the walkways in the evening when they columns are all lit up. It’s a very peaceful experience and perfect opportunity to reflect on those who were lost that day.
You can also take a seat on a bench to relax and further contemplate the sacrifices made by so many sailors and marines.
Walking through the light columns brought me back to visiting the USS Oklahoma Memorial which has a similar look and feel of “manning the rails” although without the special lighting.
You’ll notice that some of the columns are shorter than the others and those shorter columns represent the survivors of the USS Arizona attack. In total, 1,177 are lit up each glowing light is meant to memorialize the individual’s internal light.
I appreciated that they paid tribute to both the fallen and the survivors since I could only imagine how traumatic living through something like that would’ve been.
On one end of the memorial you’ll see the shape of the bow (you’ll need to cross the street in order to get there).
The other side of the memorial is partially in a reflection pool and has several bench areas where you can sit and relax and admire the beautiful site.
It’s a very well done memorial but my one complaint is that at night the lights from the ballpark do detract from the experience a bit.
Some of the columns may not be lit and I think those have just gone out and they do not serve any symbolic importance from what I can tell.
If you would like to help support the memorial and keep the structure lit consider offering a donation of $250 to become an Illumination Partner.
The is a well done memorial and worth visiting. I would try to time my visit to around sunset to make sure that you can view the beautifully lit columns at night. You might also consider donating if you are really inspired by the mission of the memorial.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.