Barberry Lake, Arizona is a small fictional town with not quite 20,000 people, in the mountains of Central Arizona, in Yavapai County, north of Phoenix. Elevation 5200 feet. It’s a county about the size of New Jersey. Many people commute to Prescott and other nearby towns for work at the colleges and health care locations there. In town are many independently owned stores and some tourism. The town’s name comes from a nearby lake used for boating and fishing. In the center of town, there is one primary school (grades K-8) and one high school (grades 9-12).
Unlike Phoenix and Tuscon, Yavapai and other mountain areas, while still hot in summer, have lakes and rivers and an abundance of wildlife. The town is within commuting distance of Prescott. The drive to Phoenix is about 1:30 hours, so not unreasonable for day trips, or for workers who need to go to the main office in the city a couple times a month.
Visit Prescott, Arizona! Nestled at an elevation of 5,200′ feet above sea level amongst the largest stand of ponderosa pine forests in the U.S., Prescott’s perfect weather provides an average temperature of 70 degrees, with four beautiful and distinct seasons, and breathtaking landscapes complete with granite mountains, lakes, streams, and rolling meadows filled with wildlife. (ref)
In 1995, when my story takes place, the population of Yavapai County was 140,000 (today, it’s closer to 230,000). In 1995, the largest town (and county seat) was Prescott, with 33,000 people. Prescott Valley had 16,000. (Now, Prescott Valley has grown to 45,000 and Prescott to 43,000.)
Why this location? No particular reason…it just came to me that the town was near Prescott, an area I’ve visited. I wanted a place not so rural that it was isolated but one with a strong sense of community. Too big for everyone to know each other but small enough that people feel like they should.
Cottonwood, AZ, a Yavapai County town a little smaller than Barberry Lake