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Yuma has a rich history which dates back more than a century, to the days of the "Wild West" where the streets were dusty and the Colorado River flowed untamed. Whether you're a history buff or have a curious interest in how Yuma became the Gateway of the Great Southwest, we've got a list to help you get to some of the area's top attractions ...
A Ghost Town Awaits You — Once larger in population than the coinciding town of Yuma, Castle Dome was a mining community located in what is now the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Founded in the 1860s, what remains of Castle Dome is the semblance of a town with several buildings, many tools, and stories left behind to wither away in the desolate desert. Except, the grounds' transformation into an outdoor museum now ensures the history of Castle Dome will live on for many years to come, as one of Arizona's few remaining ghost towns. Between May and September, call 928-920-3062 for hours. For more information, visit CastleDomeMuseum.org.
Get Locked Up — Fans of Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures know it as "Hell Hole Prison" for the dark and twisted tales which linger long after the last inmates occupied this first prison of the Arizona Territory. For many others, the 1957 and 2007 films "3:10 to Yuma" are what bring this "Hell Hole Prison" to mind and, today, Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is open, welcoming convicts of another kind. Guilty of having a curiosity for what it was like to work and live inside the prison walls? Turn yourself in for a fascinating experience, which includes a look into "The Dark Cell" and a look back at the men AND women who served hard time in Yuma. Parole include with the price of admission. For more information, visit YumaPrison.org.
A River Runs Through It — Yuma's storied history as a Colorado River crossing point is only scratching the surface. The Yuma Quartermaster Depot was a U.S. Army supply distribution point for forts throughout the American Southwest, established in the 1860s. Believe it or not, steam wheel boats came up the Colorado River from the Gulf of California to drop those supplies off, making Yuma the ideal point along the river to get goods to personnel, until the Southern Pacific Railroad was finalized in the 1870s. Today, Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park preserves the history of the facility while providing more information about Yuma as a Colorado River community and the engineering behind one of it's impressive canal systems. For more information, visit AZStateParks.com.
Take a Trip to the Center of the World — Okay, now that we have your attention: Felicity, teetering on the edge of southeastern California, is a town just west of Yuma with a population of not more than 20 people or so. Yet, it is home to the official Center of the World, the Museum of History in Granite, the Hall of Fame of Parachuting, and a number of other odd roadside spectacles. And, still, as quirky as it all sounds, its one of the most fascinating man made sites in this corner of the globe. Intrigued? You'll just have to see it to believe it. Do note that, during warmer months (May through September), much of the park is in hibernation with much of the activity being self-guided. However, return during fall and winter to really see the place abuzz with special presentations and events. For more information, visit HistoryinGranite.org. Also, want to be a bigger part of the fun? Purchase a customized plaque to hang in the park's new Maze of Honor.
Visit the Home of Yuma's Merchant Prince — As with so many stories about Yuma's past, it isn't just about the where or the what, but also who. E.F. Sanguinetti was a man who helped transformed the economy of Yuma with his business acumen, heading into and through the start of the 20th century. The Sanguinetti House & Gardens stands to honor is contributions and to provide a deeper look into Yuma's past. Each year, museum staff curate a new theme with tours and presentations. For more information about the current "Secrets in Victorian Yuma" exhibit and other upcoming events, visit ArizonaHistoricalSociety.org.
All Aboard! — The very first train to enter into Arizona did so at Yuma, crossing over the Colorado River from California in 1877. And, although that original crossing point no longer exists, a 1907 Baldwin locomotive sits on the very spot where the tracks entered town. At the Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza, visitors will find a revitalized park adorned with plaques detailing the railroad, the nearby tribal communities, and river history.
Native Lifestyles and Culture — Built in 1996, the Cocopah Museum and Cultural Center feature exhibits on history and culture and a gift shop. The Cocopah Museum is a recognized federal repository and its exhibits include objects and depictions of Cocopah history and culture. Museum guests will see examples of traditional clothing such as bark skirts and leather sandals, modern-day beadwork, pottery, traditional tattoo designs, musical instruments and the Cocopah warriors' display.
Get Lost Looking at 'Stuff' — You've seen the shows on television of "pickers" visiting vast collections of stuff, oftentimes many decades old. Well, at the Cloud Museum, you'll find one of those places, neatly organized into an outdoor display of vintage cars, trucks, tractors, power tools, hand tools, household equipment, boat engines, wheels, and items from local businesses. The Museum, located just north of Yuma in Bard, California, is nearly 30 years of stuff assembled by its owner Johnny Cloud.
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