Sand dunes resembling the dips and peaks of an alien landscape … rugged mountains against an azure sky … a wild and raging river snaking through the valley … combine all three, and you have the amazing landscape of Yuma, Arizona.
Yuma is located in Arizona’s southwestern corner, touching California on the north end and the Mexican border to the west and south. With a centuries-old history and the petroglyphs to prove it, Yuma is a fascinating city. A narrowing in the Colorado River near Yuma made it a natural crossing point for Native Americans and early explorers, and today there are hundreds of prehistoric and historical artifacts from the Yuma area on display in museums across the state. Some historic buildings from Fort Yuma, built in the mid-1800s, can still be found on the Quechan Indian Reservation.
Historic Downtown Yuma dates back to 1849, when it saw tens of thousands of fortune-seekers headed to California during the gold rush. Yuma was at the end of the Gila Trail, the land route those early pioneers traveled to reach California. Today, Downtown Yuma is home to the Historic Yuma Theater, the Yuma Art Center, the Village Art Gallery, the Sanguinetti House Museum, and a variety of gift shops, boutiques, cafes, and a brew house.
The Old West was more than wild – it was dangerous. Yuma’s colorful history includes gun fights and outlaws, and has inspired movies such as the 2007 Oscar-nominated film, 3:10 to Yuma. The Yuma Territorial Prison began housing inmates in 1876 as the Arizona Territory’s first prison. Today, the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is a must-see, complete with exhibits and a gift shop. Near Yuma, you’ll also find ghost towns, such as Castle Dome Mines Museum. This recreation features authentic artifacts in buildings such as a blacksmith shop, general store, and saloon.
In addition to museums, Yuma is home to a variety of theaters, wineries, casinos, nightclubs, and music venues. But getting back to the impressive mountains, desert, and river: Yuma is ideal for outdoor adventures. Go hiking around Yuma and you’ll discover such beautiful places as the Painted Desert Trail, the East Wetlands trail, and the riverfront trail in Gateway Park. Try camping in the Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area (where scenes from Return of the Jedi were filmed), at Mittry Lake, or at the Imperial Dam Recreation Area. Mittry Lake has 10 piers and two boat ramps, while Senator Wash Dam and Reservoir is available for water skiing, sailing, boating, and fishing. Spend an afternoon exploring the petroglyphs at Antelope Hill and Painted Rock, or go horseback riding in the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness. And, of course, there are plenty of places to ride an ATV.
If you want to live in Yuma, there are plenty of apartments available to rent – be sure to check them out. Yuma is a dynamic, active community with the reputation of being one of the sunniest places on earth. In fact, the sun shines 90 percent of the time. And while you won’t see a lot of rain, the nearby Gila and Colorado Rivers provide plenty of opportunities for fishing, water skiing, jet skiing, and kayaking.