It’s not a stretch to call Yuma a lush desert in the oasis. Surrounded by a stark, arid landscape, the town sits on the banks of the mighty Colorado River, with lush, green fields emanating out to encircle the city limits. Yuma has managed to make the most of its location, providing cooling activities in and out of the water, and bundling historic destinations with newfound experiences. From working the blackjack table to dropping a line in a favorite fishing hole, the Gateway of the Great Southwest is a good bet on a great getaway.
Tubing on the Colorado River is one of the most pleasurable ways to spend an afternoon in the desert, but other forms of water recreation can also provide a leisurely day in the sun. Visitors can hit the water via boating or paddling canoes and kayaks on the slow current. If swimming is more desirable, head to Centennial Beach, or fall hook, line and sinker in love with fishing upstream along the river where channels and hidden lakes conceal bass, catfish and bluegill.
Built in 1875, the Yuma Territorial Prison housed inmates for over 30 years, but today the abandoned cellblocks constitute one of the most popular state parks in Arizona. The Quartermaster Depot, now part of the Colorado River State Historic Park, is an equally intriguing trip back in time. Visitors are dazzled by this well-preserved army supply post, which once held vital supplies within its walls for all forts in the southwestern United States.
Art and Entertainment
A visit to the Yuma Art Center always promises an entertaining treat. From Dinner Theater to the Battle of the Bands, or the Children’s Ball to Art in the Park, participants have an ever-widening list of events from which to choose. Looking for something wilder? Make a wager on a night of fun at one of the local casinos. Or grab a club of a different kind and hit the links at more than 15 golf courses in the area.
Yuma’s Fun Events
Timing is everything, and if you watch the calendar, you may discover your visit to Yuma coincides with some fun events. January brings Civil War Days to the desert with battle reenactments on the grounds of the Colorado River State Historic Park. Occurring mid-November, the Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival will take visitors up, up and away with daily liftoffs. Yuma certainly rises to the occasion with tethered rides, entertainment and a balloon glow at Desert Sun Stadium.
Planes in the Desert
Keeping things in the air, the Yuma Air Show puts on quite a performance with military and civilian aircraft. Usually held in March, the desert skies fill with plane demonstrations, while back on solid ground, attendees will find modern airplanes, helicopters and jet displays, along with great entertainment. See the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard and stick around for the Fireworks Finale.
Built on the east bank of the Colorado River, Yuma’s past is a colorful mixture of the Wild West mayhem with a bit of railroad and military history thrown in for good measure. The river is a common thread that runs through all of it. Before dams controlled its flow, the Colorado ran wild and free, in some places reaching several miles in width. But the geography of Yuma tamed the beast with granite bluffs containing the river, making it the first dependable crossing in hundreds of miles. This proved to be a perfect place for a settlement, and the population swelled in the 1800s as the California gold rush brought thousands of treasure hunters through the area on their way to the Golden State.
On the Way to Gold
The Butterfield Overland Mail Stage ran through Yuma Crossing, as did the Mormon Battalion, all using a rope ferry to cross the river. Steamboats came up the Colorado from the Gulf of California, offloading supplies for army forts that popped up during the Mexican-American War. By the time railroads entered the territory in 1877, the town had a new name: Yuma.
Yuma’s Good Earth
Owing to its warm climate and proximity to water for irrigation, Yuma County is a thriving agricultural community that produces over $3 billion a year in winter vegetables and other agricultural products. In fact, a third of Arizona’s agricultural produce comes from the Yuma County area, making it a prime winter snowbird spot for Field to Feast farm tours with gourmet farm-to-table lunches, farmer’s wife dinners, progressive dinners and other special events.
Today Yuma, Arizona, has reinvented itself once again. With warm winters (and even warmer summers), the region has become a haven for snowbirds looking for balmy winter retreats. The town’s population easily doubles in size, as it offers a warm welcome to more than 85,000 temporary residents.
For More Information
Arizona Office of Tourism