The Hassayampa River
is in Arizona
, northwest of Phoenix
. It is nearly 100 miles long, but the majority of its length flows underground
, beneath the sand
but above the bedrock
; a portion near Wickenburg
where the river is above ground is set aside as a nature
preserve, since it provides a fairly well-watered habitat for wildlife which cannot survive in the surrounding desert
. In other places there only appears to be a dried-out riverbed
unless there is a severe storm
. In theory, the Hassayampa is a tributary
of the Gila River
, but much of the time the water does not make it all the way to the Gila.
The name of the river is Indian in origin and means "the river that flows upside down." When gold nuggets were discovered near the river's course before the American Civil War, the United States became a lot more interested in making this area a territory; afterwards many miners came to the area and "Hassayamper" started to mean someone who came to the area for the gold. After a while the meaning of the word changed to "old-timer." Eventually the river became linked in folklore to lying and exaggeration; supposedly drinking its water made a person unable to tell the truth. For some time "Hassayamper" or "Hassayamp" meant "liar," but that meaning has left the language enough for the Wickenburg, Arizona Chamber of Commerce to call its newsletter "The Hassayamper."
Metcalf, Alan. How We Talk: American Regional English Today. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.