Colorado River State Historic Park

(928) 783-0071
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Explore Yuma, Arizona’s Rich River, Military & Engineering History in the Backdrop of the Old Quartermaster’s Depot
Compiled by Lisa D. Smith & Nancy J. Reid

The first inhabitants in the greater Yuma area were the Quechans, Cocopahs and Mohaves, who gathered along the banks of the lower Colorado River. They used the river as a focal point for farming and trade and the Yuma Crossing became a central point for all trade routes. At that time the wild and untamed river cut a deep path through the Grand Canyon, swiftly flowing south until the unique geological formation of two granite outcroppings channeled the river to just 400 yards-making Yuma Crossing the only safe place to cross.


In the early 1800s Yuma was under Spanish and Mexican rule until it became a territorial possession of the United States. Fort Yuma was founded in 1949 and with it came steamboats from California traveling up the river from the Gulf of California. With gold being discovered in California in the mid 1800s, Yuma grew as the only viable southern route for those seeking riches. In the late 1800s the first railroad bridge was completed allowing, for the first time, trains to enter from the west. The highway system followed soon after, and in 1915 the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge was finished, linking San Francisco to New York. Thousands of people looking for a better life, migrated west through Yuma.

Yuma’s fascinating past runs the gamut, from brothels and saloons to the building of the Territorial Prison that housed some of the most notorious and dangerous criminals of those times, along with incredible attempts to tame the river, as well as steamboat and railroading history. With amazing engineering feats like the Yuma Siphon, Laguna Dam and The Yuma Project, agriculture flourished and forever changed the nature and make-up of Yuma.

The Colorado River State Historic Park showcases history of the Crossing from prehistoric times until the present, set in the backdrop of the old Quartermaster’s Depot. Through the eyes of the Native Americans, entrepreneurs, steamboat captains, fortune seekers and the military, it answers the questions of how the early emigrants survived or failed, living in one of the most rugged and isolated places in the world.

From 1864 to 1883, the Yuma Quartermaster Depot was used by the US Army to store and distribute supplies for all the military posts in Arizona, and posts in Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas. Five of the original depot buildings remain on the park grounds, and four of these buildings contain exhibits which cover both the military history of the site and the history of the Bureau of Reclamation’s construction of major irrigation works in the Yuma area during the early 1900s. Here you can tour five of Arizona’s oldest adobe buildings that have been fully restored, view the Siphon Exhibit that tells the history of Yuma’s underground water tunnel, and learn about the Yuma Wetlands restoration project.

Along with serving as a Visitor Center offering regional information for visitors and travelers, the Colorado River State Historic Park also features a gift shop, and a 10 acre grassy park with shaded picnic spots. For hours and event information visit or call (928) 783-0071.



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