Named for the Gila River, Gila County was created in 1881, carved from portions of Maricopa and Pinal Counties. Later, a portion of Yavapai County was added which expanded the size of the county. In the late 1800's, "silver fever" brought many new miners, settlers, and ranchers to the area. Once the silver was depleted, copper mining began an upsurge which kept the area economy stable. Copper continues to be a major force in the area. The Globe Mining District, which was originally part of the San Carlos Indian Reservation, was later added to the county.
One of the original five federal projects authorized on March 13, 1903, under the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, Roosevelt Dam was the first major project to be completed under the new federal reclamation program. The world's highest masonry dam, Roosevelt was begun in 1906 and completed in 1911. This also created Roosevelt Lake, which has become a recreation destination for visitors and residents alike.
Gila County's landscape runs the gamut from Saguaro desert vistas to Ponderosa Pine covered mountains. The elevation ranges from 2,123 feet at Roosevelt Dam to 7,920 feet at both Promontory Point and Myrtle Point, on the edge of the Mogollon Rim. Over one half of Gila County is Federal public land, managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The San Carlos, Tonto, and White Mountain Apache Nations encompass an additional 37 percent of the land within the county.
Today, the major economic industries in Gila County are mining, recreation, ranching and tourism.