Though it was the "mighty Colorado River" that put Yuma on the map, a decade ago it was difficult to find the water's edge in the heart of the historic crossing.
Like many other towns, Yuma had turned its back on the river that brought it life and etched its place in the history of the West. By the 1980s, the riverfront was a tangle of non-native vegetation marked by trash dumps and hobo camps.
But the Yuma community was determined to restore its historic connection to the Colorado. Thanks to an ambitious restoration plan, Yumans now have lots of ways to enjoy their reclaimed riverfront. Here's a few:
Take a hike / The East Wetlands puts a little peace of nature steps from downtown. Head east under the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge to access a three-mile hiking trail through wetlands and growing forests. Get a trail guide at the Visitor Information Center or download it here.
Soak it in / Get in the swim on Gateway Park's sandy beach, canoe or kayak with your group (City Parks & Rec, 373.5243) or enjoy a long, lazy float on a tube or raft with Yuma River Tubing, 750.0247, www.yumarivertubing.com.
Tour de Yuma / A paved, lighted trail runs two miles from West Wetlands Park to the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge, with a five-mile extension along the East Main Canal south to 40th Street. Download the Heritage Area "Paths to Restoration" brochure with overview map here. Bike, skate or stroll, it's free and easy!
Birds brained / Sure, the East Wetlands has hundreds of species in its hundreds of acres -- but feathered friends flock close to parking, too. Don't miss the swallows nesting under the interstate in Gateway Park or the hummingbird garden and burrowing owl habitat at West Wetlands Park.
Play a round / Let the little ones explore the nooks and crannies of the Stewart Vincent Wolfe Playground - one of the nation's largest creative playgrounds, designed by Yuma kids and built by community volunteers - while Dad tests his mettle with Frisbee golf. They're side by side in West Wetlands Park.
Fiesta forever / Did you know Yuma picnic shelters - ramadas - come with pinata hangers standard? Now you do. Say olé & reserve yours at 373.5243.
The Yuma Parks and Recreation Department oversees the operation and maintenance of 34 parks, 27 playgrounds, nine community centers, four swimming pools, two golf courses, four indoor basketball courts; four outdoor basketball courts; nine lighted tennis courts, four sand volleyball courts; two cultural centers; one theater and one visual arts facility, more than 11 miles of walking and biking trails and numerous baseball, softball, football and soccer fields.
That all adds up to more than 600 acres that are available for public use and for various activities and sports.
Many of the parks include playground equipment, barbecues and ramadas (picnic shelters). To obtain a permit for use of an athletic field or to reserve a ramada for a picnic or party, call Parks and Recreation at 928-373-5243.
City parks are open from sunrise to 11 p.m. Alcohol use is prohibited in certain parks, and is allowed in others only by permit for a nominal fee.
In addition, the Parks and Rec department offers year-round arts, cultural and recreational activities for residents and visitors of all ages, with a wide variety of classes offered at several locations. Many classes at the North End Community Center, 160 E. 1st Street downtown, are specifically directed at older Yumans and visitors.
In addition, Parks and Rec also offers youth and adult sports leagues and aquatics and swimming classes.
The Yuma Parks and Recreation 2013 Spring & Summer Activities Guide is available online now - to browse or print, click here.
For more information, call 928-373-5243.
During the winter months, Parks and Rec also hosts the Senior Games, in which hundreds of Yumans and visitors ages 50 and older compete for medals in a wide variety of events. Registration usually begins in early December and competition takes place over an eight-week period from early January through the end of February. Call the Parks and Rec office for more information.
The city operates four public swimming facilities, one of which is shared with the Yuma Union High School District. The new Valley Aquatic Center, (4381 W. 18th St.) boasts the city's largest competition pool and largest leisure pool, with zero-depth entry, a 110-foot water slide, dumping buckets, and a water playground with water cannons. The Valley Aquatic Center was named the outstanding new facility in the state for 2010 by the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association.
The Valley Aquatic Center, Kennedy Pool (22nd Street and Kennedy Lane), and Marcus Pool (5th Street and 5th Avenue) offer open swimming during the summer, as well as a wide variety of aquatic programs for all ages and abilities. Carver Pool (5th Street and 13th Avenue) is used primarily for swimming lessons and specialized aquatics programs.
Pool admission is by daily fee or monthly pass. All City of Yuma pools are available for special event rentals, and the Valley Aquatic Center also offers a private party room.
The City also keeps one pool heated in the winter months and offers various swim classes and fitness opportunities. For more information, please call 928-373-5243.
The city's Gateway Park (1st and Gila streets) also features sandy swimming beaches on the Colorado River. Other "natural" settings for swimming include Senator Wash, Squaw Lake, Mittry Lake and the Colorado River.
The city's newly rebuilt Desert Sun Tennis Courts complex features a total of nine lighted courts and two practice walls, available for use from sunrise until 11 p.m. daily. The Desert Sun Tennis Courts are part of the James Deyo Athletic Complex that adjoins the Yuma Civic Center, Avenue A and 36th Street. To reach the courts, enter at 33rd Place or Desert Sun Drive and follow the road around behind Desert Sun Stadium.
Carver Park at 5th Street and 13th Avenue includes a single lighted tennis court, also available from sunrise to 11 p.m. daily.