One of the best things of being a journalist is having the opportunity to meet interesting, knowledgeable, and dedicated people. This was certainly true on our visit to Yuma.
There is Tina Clark who was our guide, and source of much interesting information, at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park. Tina is Director of Programing and Curator of Cultural Resources. That is a responsible position and Tina fulfilled it for us explaining how important this corner of the southwest was in developing the country's expansion. And what a huge role the Colorado River played in it.
Dams have tamed the river now, but before that it was huge, sometimes a hundred yards across and refused to allow all early attempts to bridge it. As snows melted in distant mountains it became a torrent. All this takes some imagination today as the River flows quietly and serenely.
The Yuma Army Depot supplied both Army as well as civilians including the thousands rushing to California's gold rush in 1849. The Park has been restored and visitors can experience an understanding of what life was like in that earlier era.
Located here is the oldest home in Yuma. It is the Quartermaster's house which was built in 1859. It has been restored to its original condition and when we toured it found it very livable and comfortable. Adobe was the building material used for the house and many of the other buildings at the Depot. Perfect for providing insulation from both heat and cold.
Tina Clark explained to us how the Yuma Siphon was constructed in the early 1900s to provide water from the Colorado River to the City of Yuma. This is an engineering marvel and a story of its own.
One of the original warehouses of the Depot is now an exhibit displaying the several dams that have tamed the Colorado River and provide the water for large areas of Arizona, Nevada and California.
At the Depot is the ''Back in Time Pie Shoppe'" and here we chatted with Bob Angle and Eva Gaxiola. The Shoppe has a wonderful collection of tea cups and other crockery that matches the Depot's time frame. And we can personally testify the pies are wonderful, having indulged in apple pie a la mode here.
Adjacent to the Depot Park is the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Landmark. Charles Flynn is Executive Director and he was our guide. He explained that when the Colorado River receded in size after daming, large areas of river bank became a wasteland. The City of Yuma faced the problem and decided to clean up the area and return it to its original state of lush wetlands. In this they have been remarkably successful. The birds and wildlife have returned to what again is native natural foliage.
Now it has become a favorite recreational park with winding trails for hikers and bikers. There is also the Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza with its mammoth steam locomotive.
Charles Flynn, who was active with the restoration since its beginning, also explained the large role the railroad played in developing Yuma. The steam locomotive on display faces toward Madison Avenue where the railroad tracks originially ran. At one time there was also a Depot built by Southern Pacific in 1924 which quickly received acclaim for its classic southwest themed architecture. Unfortunately this depot was lost to fire five decades later.
Another day we toured the West Wetlands Park with Stephanie McMillin as our guide. Here at the edge of the Colorado River there is a large pond that allows fishing, a large castle for exploring by children and lush gardens. The pond and locale are perfect for picnics and outings.
Our timing was perfect as Spring showed everywhere with flowers on some of the cacti, and both trees and bushes exploding with new blossoms. We did not let the opportunity for some photography to pass us by. We strolled down to the River for yet more photos and watched activity at the boat launching dock
Together, the two wetland parks offer seven miles of riverside bike trails, a three mile hiking trail and four hundred acres of restored wetlands for recreation.
The Quartermaster Depot and the two Yuma Crossing riverside parks are only a few city blocks away from the historic downtown area. For more information stop by the Visitor Information Center located on 4th Avenue just off Interstate 8.
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