May the force be with you and may you book these trips ASAP
No movies more famously transport their audiences to locales far, far away than the Star Wars franchise. Now at 12 installments and counting—not to mention shows like The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett (aka The Mandalorian Season 2), and Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries—the films have been shot on a ton of green-screened sound stages… and some of the prettiest freakin’ places on this planet.
It’s not everywhere on Earth, after all, that can stand in for remote moons in ancient galaxies. The prequels were great at finding amazing filming locations. You don’t have to jump into hyperspace to meander along the craggy, wind-battered trails of an Irish island, look high up in wonder at the world’s tallest trees, or explore pre-Columbian ruins in Central America.
The Star Wars movies came to screens in 1977 and revolutionized the film industry. Since George Lucas released the first installment, nine Episodes of the Skywalker Saga, three spin-off films, and three television films have been released.
Star Wars is a billion-dollar franchise. What is not to love about the franchise?
The original films used inspiration from the landscapes of Tunisia and parts of Europe. Yet, over the years, the Lucasfilms crew has traveled around the globe, capturing more dramatic real-life scenery to add to the sci-fi series.
These films feature strong characters facing hard choices, epic battle scenes, forbidden love stories, and locations that make you want to jump on a spaceship (Roswell, anyone?).
Star Wars fans tend to annually congregate online and in real life on May 4 to celebrate the date with like-minded people for major movie marathons in addition to obtaining limited-edition merchandise released specifically for the occasion.
Some of the best Star Wars filming locations include Bolivia, Italy, Iceland, Tunisia, Guatemala, Norway, Jordon, United Kingdom, Croatia, Ireland, Spain, and United Arab Emirates. Star Wars fans around the world have traveled far and wide to step in the same spots as Carrie Fisher, Natalie Portman, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and many more.
Read on to find out more about some of the most iconic places used as real-life Star Wars sets.
Here are three Star Wars filming locations in the U.S. and how to visit them yourself.
Are you ready to explore the known universe? Check out three of the incredible Star Wars filming locations you need to see in real life below. Even better, many Star Wars filming locations only require you to fuel up your RV.
Buttercup Valley, Yuma Desert, Arizona
“Building the set at Yuma was an enormous project… Over Thanksgiving holiday when we first erected the fence around the set, there was a reported crowd of 35,000 dune buggy enthusiasts there. We needed to camouflage ourselves from the public and to schedule our shooting to avoid stray dune buggies creeping into a shot in the distance. This wasn’t easy because on weekends the buggies covered the surrounding hills like ants.”
Instead of returning to Tunisia for Return of the Jedi, the film’s producers chose to shoot Buttercup Valley, a flat depression completely surrounded by sand dunes in Arizona’s Yuma Desert for the Sarlacc Pit sequence. Jabba’s Sail Barge and the Sarlacc Pit took more than five months to build and more than 5,500 cast and crew members lodged in Yuma during filming in 1982.
The sail barge was constructed here, behind fences to keep out prying fans. It was so big that the crew used the space underneath for offices, trailers, and a commissary with 150 seats. They didn’t blow up the barge here but fans still like to hunt for pieces of the set in the sand.
One of the most iconic locations throughout the three trilogies of Star Wars is the desert planet of Tatooine in A New Hope. Although most of Tatooine was shot in Tunisia, crucial scenes were filmed in Death Valley between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Mojave Desert. Twenty Mule Team Canyon was used for Episode VI: Return of the Jedi scenes with C-3PO and R2-D2 traveling to Jabba the Hut’s palace. Other stops in the park that seem familiar from the movies: Dante’s View and the Mesquite Sand Dunes.
Boasting sand dunes, salt flats, canyons, and more, they had their pick of picturesque backdrops to choose from when filming. Here, the danger of hidden Jawas is evident with the many nooks and crannies within the rockfaces.
Star Wars spots within the Death Valley National Park include the Mesquite Sand Dunes, Artist’s Pallet, Golden Canyon, and Towering-Mule Team Canyon. Hike these scenic spots at your own pace while hunting for Star Wars locations.
California’s Redwood National and State Parks portrayed the Forest Moon of Endor, the Ewoks’ home world in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Several scenes such as the speeder bike chase and the Ewok ambush were shot in the parks’ many redwood groves in Marin County which is close to Lucas’s home at Skywalker Ranch. Redwood trees rise like skyscrapers with thick trunks that depict their thousand years of existence. Giant trees with thick trunks surrounded by ferns and foliage fly past as Leia and Luke try to dodge stormtroopers.
Home to mighty redwood forests, this collection of state and national parks that includes Redwood National Park and Del Norte Coast, has been used in a number of films like ET and Jurassic Park: The Lost World.
Arizona small historical towns each have a unique history and character-perfect for a road trip. See my fave mining, western, and funky artsy spots and work one (or three) into YOUR next road trip.
Visit any of these charming historic towns in Arizona if you want to bask in the rich heritage of the American Wild West. While some are still well populated, a handful of ghost towns are on this list which adds a fun and mysterious element to your adventure. Enjoy the scenic views and well-preserved local history and take a glimpse into American life during the turn of the century. Any or all of these historic towns in Arizona is a worthy visit for history and nature lovers alike.
Williams: Gateway to the Grand Canyon
Two things distinguish Williams: Route 66 and the Grand Canyon. Williams describes itself as “the best-preserved stretch of Route 66.” It was the last town on the mother road to be bypassed by Interstate 40 (in 1984) so it hung on to its Route 66 identity. The center of town with its diners, motels, and shops is a designated National Historic District.
We first came here to use it as a base for taking the train to the Grand Canyon but found the town itself charming. The town is the headquarters of the Grand Canyon Historic Railway and Hotel.
Because of its proximity to the park, many Grand Canyon tour operators are based in Williams. Kaibab National Forest surrounds the town, with plenty of hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities for outdoor lovers.
It would be hard to get more Old West in Arizona historical towns than Tombstone (The Town Too Tough To Die). It is one of the most frequented destinations in the state for history buffs since this is home to the famous OK Corral where the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday gunned down the ornery Clanton-McLaury gang. But there’s a lot more to Tombstone including a rich silver mining history and clashes with the Apaches.
Tombstone has done much to preserve its Old West atmosphere. The main street is still dirt and cars must share the road with horses, Western wear shops, restaurants, and saloons line the wooden sidewalks. Historic sights include the Birdcage Theater and Tombstone Courthouse.
Prescott is one of the most charming Arizona small towns. A classic old courthouse anchors the central square. (Remember the old Back to the Future movies? It wouldn’t be surprising to see Marty McFly zipping by in his SteamPunk DeLorean.) Pretty Victorian homes and cottages line the downtown streets.
Restaurants, boutiques, antique shops, cafes, and western wear outfitters surround the courthouse square. Visit historic Whiskey Row so called because that’s where all the hootin’ and hollerin’ happened. Today you can do a bit of hootin’ and hollerin’ of your own on Whiskey Row as you don your Western duds—many of the bars feature live music.
That western atmosphere is legit: Prescott is also home to the world’s oldest rodeo with the grounds about a half mile northwest of downtown. Nearby Prescott National Forest, Watson Lake, and Lynx Lake provide numerous opportunities for outdoor pursuits. Additionally, four of Arizona’s prominent museums are in Prescott allowing for an educational visit while you are in town.
Bisbee was established in 1876 as a copper mining town tucked away in the southeastern part of Arizona. The area once known as the Queen of the Copper Camps is home to a charming community among the Mule Mountains, popular with artists and retirees. The mine is no longer operational but Bisbee has now transformed itself into a cool and funky destination with a sort of Victorian-meets-midcentury kind of vibe.
Learn how copper helped shape both the town and the nation at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum and then see the real deal underground on a Queen Mine Tour. Browse Bisbee’s many art galleries and spend the night (or three) at the Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court or one of the town’s picturesque bed and breakfasts.
Yuma: An Old West border town
Yuma is a small Arizona town in the extreme southwest corner of the state. Sitting along the banks of the Colorado River made Yuma a strategic location in the 18th and 19th centuries. Initially, it was missionaries who traveled this route. Passing through Yuma became one of the fastest ways to get out west during the California Gold Rush.
Today visitors to Yuma can get the feel of a real Old West town by visiting the historic downtown. The center of town took off during the gold rush years. Yuma was also home to the Yuma Territorial Prison which is now a state park. (The prison figured largely in the classic Western movie 3:10 to Yuma). Visit the Colorado River State Historic Park to learn about the importance of the crossing throughout the past few centuries.
The ghost town of Oatman is a worthy destination to visit for history lovers and you will find businesses operating there despite the lack of residents. A must-stop on a Route 66 road trip, Oatman is another former mining town that offers the chance for visitors to experience the Old West as pictured in so many cowboy films.
While it’s a ghost town, in recent years it’s taken on new life as a popular tourist attraction. Wild burros roam the streets in search of treats, the carrots that are purchased from one of the numerous carrot stands. In fact, more burros reside in Oatman than humans. The population of about 100 people is mainly business owners who make a living off of the steady stream of tourist traffic that runs through the town annually.
Tubac is a small historic town 47 miles south of Tucson that today is a thriving artist colony. Unlike most Arizona small towns, the history of Tubac predates mining and cattle. Because of its location along the Santa Cruz River, it was a settlement for native tribes. Inhabited for 11,000 years before being established as a Spanish Presidio in 1752, the area is steeped in history which can be explored in Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. Here, hundreds of years and layers of history mingle together incorporating Native Peoples, Spanish Missionaries, and Mexican and American soldiers. History buffs should visit Tumacácori National Historic Park 5 miles south of town.
Tubac’s multiple art galleries line the sleepy streets of Tubac. The Tubac Center of the Arts hosts rotating exhibits, art workshops, and performances.
Jerome is a unique former copper mining town that’s perched up high on Cleopatra Hill, not far from Sedona. It’s a hair-raising drive up a twisty road to get there (Look straight ahead, not down). But the good part is the view of the surrounding valley is spectacular. You can even see many of Sedona’s red rocks in the distance.
Jerome once had so many saloons it was dubbed The Wickedest Town in America. Now you can browse its funky shops and wet your whistle at atmospheric bars and restaurants. It also offers history buffs a wealth of experience through the Mine Museum displaying artifacts representing the town past and present. The Jerome State Historic Park, home to the Douglas Mansion, is now a museum.
Cottonwood: Water & wine
Cottonwood sits alongside the Verde River in the valley just south of Jerome. Due to its location along a river, Cottonwood is a unique small Arizona town: it began its life as a farming community in the late 1800s. The cute main street has a midcentury feel.
Our first visit to Cottonwood in 2000 showed a small town without a lot going on. However, all those storefronts in Old Town with potential couldn’t stay empty for long. On numerous return visits, I’ve been delighted to see a town full of unique shops, cafes, and wine tasting rooms.
Cottonwood has stayed true to its agricultural roots. Tuzigoot National Monument is just outside of town, the stone remains of this Indian pueblo providing evidence that this has been a prime growing country for centuries. The Verde Valley Wine Trail provides more modern evidence: rows of vines grace the gently sloping hills surrounding town and that musky smell of fermenting grapes permeates the air. Over 20 wineries and tasting rooms are open for sampling in and around the town.
Globe was founded in the 1870s on copper mining and cattle and both are still important industries today. This central Arizona small town is equidistant from Phoenix and Tucson and makes a nice day trip or weekend destination.
In the heart of Southern Arizona sits the former mining camp known as Globe. Founded in 1876 and incorporated in 1907, this lovely town is brimming with century-old buildings, cottages, and hillside houses. The historic downtown area is perfect for leisurely strolls and shopping for antiques while the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts is a great spot to explore and experience the talent of some incredible artists. Other areas of interest include the Besh-ba-Gowah Archeological Park which features stunning ruins of a Salado pueblo along with an accompanying museum.
Kingman was established as a railroad town in the 1880s and soon grew thanks to mining in the surrounding area. Historic Route 66 passes right through town; Kingman is the westernmost Arizona town on the mother road. Andy Devine, one of the early stars of western movies, is from Kingman. To celebrate this celluloid hero, the portion of Route 66 that goes through the center of town is known as Andy Devine Avenue.
Today Kingman has a real road trip feel and celebrates its motoring and railroad heritage. The multi-purpose Powerhouse Visitor Center is in an old converted power station. You’ll also find the Arizona Route 66 Museum and the Arizona Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum there.
Across the street in Locomotive Park train geeks will love the ogling historic old steam engine #3579. And there is no shortage of Route 66 photo-ops: the logo is displayed all over town on signs and painted on the street.
Patagonia: Chill at a bird-lover’s paradise
Patagonia is a small town nestled high in the Santa Rita Mountains about an hour southeast of Tucson. Once a mining town, Patagonia today is focused on cattle ranching and recreation. The wine-growing region of Sonoita is just 12 miles north.
The Sonoita Creek flows through Patagonia year-round (a rarity in Arizona’s dry climate). As a result, the region is a popular flyway for many unique types of birds⏤and is a great spot for birdwatchers. Downtown Patagonia has a few funky art galleries, shops, and cafes. The town’s high altitude (4,500 feet) keeps it cool in the summer, and many visitors like to stay for a week, enjoying nearby State Park at Patagonia Lake or ropin’ and ridin’ at the historic Circle Z Ranch.
A visit to any of these beautiful historical towns in Arizona will let you take a peek into what the times of the Wild West were really like. Visit an abandoned ghost town, a National Historic Site, or a museum in any of these destinations to learn more about the people and life in early American history. You can also appreciate the scenic landscapes and rich biodiversity that Arizona has to offer, including the scenic backdrop of rugged cliffs and mountains at every turn.
The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.
These 16 RV getaway spots are ranked based on cost, amenities, internet speed, pet polices, air quality, and more. It’s time to plan your road trip.
If it seemed like the pandemic produced a lot more RVs around your neighborhood, you’re probably right. One of them may even be yours.
Van life was already trending before COVID and has been buoyed by the need for social distancing and the work-from-anywhere possibilities. As travel-hungry adventurers continue to look for ways to escape and see the great outdoors, RV sales are on the rise.
The RV Industry Association (RVIA) forecasts RV wholesale shipments at around 591,100 units by the end of 2022 which is close to the 600,240 shipped in 2021, the industry’s best year on record. Total RV shipments in March 2022 were 64,454, up 18.7 percent over March 2021 and a 69 percent increase over the 38,015 shipped in March 2019.
Although there’s no available data on how many people are traveling in their RVs, Mercedes-Benz U.S. van sales shot up 22.5 percent in 2020, according to USA Today.
So, yes, if it seems like there’s more RVs on the highway it is likely there is: 11.2 million U.S. households own an RV, according to RVIA. And contrary to popular belief, they’re not just retired folks: More than half are under 54 years old. Those in the 18- to 34-year-old age range now make up 22 percent of the market.
So if you’re going to jump on the camper bandwagon to head out on the open road where are the best places to live the RV life? To determine the best RV destinations in the U.S., number crunchers at StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings, analyzed data from camping directory CampgroundViews about numbers of campsites, their costs, and amenities such as water, sewer, and electricity hookups, swimming pools, Wi-Fi, cable TV, ‘pull-thru’-type sites (for convenience when parking), and pet policies. They also used a variety of sources to find local air quality, internet speeds, grocery prices, storage options, and the number of nearby retail outlets.
Here are 16 of the best places in the U.S. for RV campers.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Median air quality index: 43=good
Average internet speed: 92 mbps
Grocery cost: 98.2 percent of U.S. average
Retail outlets per 1,000 residents: 22.9 (the most on this list)
Pigeon Forge is located near Gatlinburg and Sevierville and is about five miles from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. A popular year-round family-friendly vacation destination, Pigeon Forge is filled with fun activities. There’s plenty of shopping here and a Dolly Parton theme park.
Grants Pass sits on Oregon’s Rogue River in the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest. It’s a good spot for rafting and enjoying the lush outdoors. It’s central to places like the historic Gold Rush town of Jacksonville, Applegate Valley Wine Tour near Medford, Crater Lake National Park, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.
Median air quality index: 44=good
Average internet speed: 99 mbps
Grocery cost: 98.4 percent of U.S. average
Retail outlets per 1,000 residents: 2.7
Rockport-Fulton has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for many years. You’ll find a sandy beach, a birder’s paradise, a thriving arts community, unique shopping, delectable seafood, unlimited outdoor recreation, historical sites, and great fishing.
Whether you’re looking for fun and adventure or lazy days on the beach, you can do it all in Gulf Shores and nearby Orange Beach. Dolphin watching, ocean fishing, and golf are popular activities. Discover history and travel back in time when cannons protected the waterways and explore the nearly 200-year-old Fort Morgan. Adjacent to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is Gulf State Park with 6,000 acres spanning the sugar-white sands of the Gulf Coast and is home to nine unique ecosystems. The Gulf State Park Campground offers 496 full hook-up RV campsites.
Don’t pass up the big city on your road trip. America’s fourth-largest city is a cosmopolitan destination filled with world-class dining, arts, entertainment, shopping, and outdoor recreation. Take a stroll through the historic Heights, spend the day exploring the Museum District, or head down to Space Center Houston and Galveston.
Tucson is an Arizona destination worth repeat visits with history, culture, and outdoor activities galore. View a great variety of plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert at Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. A desert oasis, Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is a hiker’s paradise. The West is full of beautiful national parks but one of the most iconic symbols of the Old West is the saguaro cactus—and Saguaro National Park and Catalina State Park are full of them.
In the far west of the state on the Colorado River near the California and Mexico borders, Yuma has one of the nation’s largest mass of inland sand dunes enjoyed by ATVers. Immerse yourself in rich culture and heritage rooted in centuries of history. Popular with snowbirds, Yuma is known as the Winter Lettuce Capital and it holds a Guinness World Record as the “Sunniest City in the World.” Just over the border in Mexico is Los Algodones, a popular spot for medical tourism. Check out the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, a Wild West–era prison (Yuma High’s unusual mascot is the Criminals).
Remember the Alamo? This is where you go to see it. From the San Jose Mission to the Alamo, this city is known for its fabulous, historic architecture. With a mix of cultures, Mexican and Tex-Mex food is more authentic than found almost anywhere else in the country. There is a lot to do in San Antonio from visiting the missions to the Alamo and touring the River Walk. You can also spend days enjoying family-fun destinations like SeaWorld and Six Flags or join a ghost and vampire tour. There is no lack of diversions to explore in this city and beyond.
Retail outlets per 1,000 residents: 2 (the fewest of this list)
Located at the southern tip of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley hosts one of the most spectacular convergences of birds on earth. Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, just south of Mission, is not only Texas’ southernmost state park but since October 2005, the headquarters of the World Birding Center. The 760-acre park draws visitors from as far away as Europe and Japan hoping to spot some of the more than 325 species of birds and over 250 species of butterflies.
With mountains all around, miles of hiking and biking trails, a river running through it and national parks nearby, Redding is an outdoor paradise for all ages. Cradled by Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen, Redding has 300+ sunny days per year. Redding is also home to the famous Sundial Bridge, world-class fishing, and 200 miles of hiking and biking trails for all abilities. Head out on a day-trip to see the bubbling mud pots and boiling lakes in Lassen Volcanic National Park. The area’s wealth of outdoor activities include Turtle Bay Exploration Park with the renown Sundial Bridge, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Shasta Lake, and Lake Shasta Caverns.
Austin was recently voted the No. 1 place to live in America for the third year in a row— based on affordability, job prospects, and quality of life. It was named the fastest growing large city in the U.S. It was chosen among the top 15 cities in the United States to visit. Austin features centrally located Lady Bird Lake, named after Texan and former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson. Lady Bird Lake is part of the Colorado River and is a popular place to canoe, kayak, and use stand-up paddleboards. Next to the lake are the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.
The areas surrounding Benson offer numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation. Coronado National Forest and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area provide areas for hiking, camping, and picnicking. Kartchner Caverns State Park provides an unforgettable way to get in touch with the earth—literally. Located on State Route 90 in the Whetstone Mountains these unique caverns are the most pristine in the U. S. Tombstone invites visitors to walk in the footsteps of the West’s most famous outlaws and good guys, the Clantons and the Earps
For a change of pace, Casa Grande offers a relaxing respite from the hustle-and-bustle, halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. Casa Grande draws golfers year-round with excellent play at a variety of area courses. Stroll through historic downtown Casa Grande, one of Arizona’s Main Street communities with more than 40 buildings in national and local historic registers. Hike, bike, and even take a farm or dairy tour. At the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, you’ll find the Ancient Sonoran Desert People’s farming community including the preserved “Great House,” or “Casa Grande.”
Soak up the sun in Arizona’s third-largest city. The neighboring farms and Agritourism attractions in and around Mesa provide a bounty of seasonal goods for visitors to enjoy. Mesa is neighbors to the Tonto National Forest and visitors to this desert oasis take advantage of being close to one of the nation’s largest playgrounds. Tonto is the fifth largest forest in the United States and one of the most-visited forests in the country. There are three lakes and two rivers in Mesa that allow for desert boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, and water skiing. There are treasures to be found all over Mesa. What treasures you find just depends on where you look.
Located along the northern rim of Lake Okeechobee, Florida’s “inland sea,” the city of Okeechobee offers visitors a relaxing time. Choose from a variety of RV parks and campgrounds just minutes from the beauty of Lake Okeechobee, varied attractions, and annual events. Known as the “Speckled Perch Capital of the World,” Okeechobee holds an annual event in honor of this title—the Speckled Perch Festival held in March. The town provides a convenient access point to the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail. And the lake and its shores, of course, offer boating, freshwater fishing, hiking, and biking.
Arizona excels in natural areas and bird-watching locations
No matter if you’re new to bird watching or are an avid birder looking to check rare species off your life list, Arizona is your place.
A day pack will help stow your creature’s comfort items, snacks, water, a sweater or light jacket, and a birding field guide. Bring enough gear to ensure your stay in the field is as comfortable as possible.
The last piece of the birding equation is totally up to you. Just get out there and enjoy nature. Hike around while peering into the brush, on the water, or in trees for Arizona’s diverse bird species.
Desert Botanical Garden
Located near Papago Park and Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden offers an excellent opportunity to view desert birdlife up close. These gardens provide excellent habitats for a variety of desert species. The birds may be observed throughout the five informative trails that exhibit different desert habitats and settings. Since each trail has a theme, the birdlife may vary on each trail.
Birds commonly seen include Gambel’s quail, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, white-winged and Inca doves, greater roadrunner, Western screech-owl, Anna’s and Costa’s hummingbirds, Gila and Ladder-backed woodpeckers, gilded flicker, Ash-throated flycatcher, verdin, cactus and rock wrens, black-tailed gnatcatcher, Northern mockingbird, curve-billed thrasher, Abert’s towhee, and Northern cardinal.
Ramsey Canyon is renowned for its beauty and serenity. It is also an ecological crossroads where plants and wildlife from the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts mingle with those from the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Madre. The abrupt rise of mountains like the Huachucas from the surrounding arid grasslands creates “sky islands” that harbor amazing habitat diversity.
The diverse wildlife and habitats of Ramsey Canyon may be viewed from the Hamburg Trail. This open-ended route parallels Ramsey Creek through the preserve before climbing 500 feet in a half-mile series of steep switchbacks.
Ramsey Canyon has been famous among birders and other nature enthusiasts for over a century. Though best known for its diversity of hummingbirds—as many as fifteen species of hummingbirds migrate through Ramsey Canyon—the canyon offers much more. Residents of the canyon include Arizona woodpecker, Mexican jay, canyon wren, bridled titmouse, elegant Trojan, Montezuma quail, and spotted towhee.
To the north and east of the Tuzigoot Pueblo in the Monument is the Tavasci Marsh, an oasis for birds and other wildlife. The Marsh is a spring-fed freshwater wetland that occupies an abandoned oxbow of the Verde River. Named an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society, the Marsh feeds into the Verde River, and over 245 species of birds have been documented within the Monument, many of them found in the riparian corridor of the Verde River and the Marsh.
Bird species common to the Monument include Abert’s towhee, ruby-crowned kinglet, curve-billed thrasher, Western kingbird, cactus wren, sora, Gila, and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern flicker, Say’s phoebe (pictured above), and lesser goldfinch.
A 1,500-acre wildlife habitat, Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area is famous for the large population of sandhill cranes during the winter season of October through February. Whitewater Draw lies in the Chiricahua desert grassland habitat of the Sulphur Springs Valley. The Sulphur Springs Valley, west of the Chiricahua Mountains between Bisbee and Douglas to the south and Willcox to the north, is great for bird watching.
Located in the southwestern part of the valley, the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area lies within a desert grassland habitat. Nearly half of the Wildlife Area falls within a floodplain. Over 600 acres of the area is intermittently flooded wetland with two small patches of riparian habitat.
Whitewater Draw has a one-mile boardwalk trail that takes you around cattail marshes, shallow ponds, and eventually to several viewing platforms. Here you can use permanently-mounted spotting scopes to observe the wintering sandhill cranes, and the flocks of snow geese and tundra swan that share the sky with the cranes.
The number of waterbirds wintering here has also increased in recent years, and thousands of ducks, grebes, cinnamon teals, Northern shoveler, Northern pintail, and other waterbirds are usually present all winter. This is also a great place to see avocets, stilts, and yellowlegs. Wetland birds include egrets, great blue heron, black-crowned night heron, ibis, soras, terns, and other shorebirds.
The small stand of riparian woodland attracts many migratory birds including warblers, vireos, flycatchers, orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, and buntings. You may see mourning dove, white-winged dove, Gambel’s quail, and scaled quail. Several species of sparrows can be found, including lark, vesper, white-crowned, Lincoln’s, and Cassin’s. Members of the flycatcher family including vermilion flycatcher, Say’s phoebe, and black phoebe are common here.
It’s not just snowbirds that flock to Yuma—nearly 400 species of birds make this a seasonal stop or year-round home because of the area’s diverse habitat.
There’s great birding right in the middle of town, thanks to West Wetlands and Gateway parks and the East Wetlands park and trail system. Birds commonly seen include cinnamon teal, common moorhen, white-faced ibis, least bittern, clapper rail, black-necked stilt, ladder-backed, and Gila woodpeckers, verdin, blue grosbeak, lesser goldfinch, greater roadrunner, and numerous flycatchers and warblers.
The true Southwest awaits in Yuma. Immerse yourself in rich culture and heritage rooted in centuries of history. Soak in blue skies and sun that shines 310 days a year—perfect for outdoor excursions.
Yuma is known as the Winter Lettuce Capital—thanks to its abundant vegetable production—and it holds a Guinness World Record as the “Sunniest City in the World.” With a prime location overlooking the Colorado River and home to the well-preserved Wild West-era Yuma Territorial Prison, this destination is an ideal place to explore.
Your first stops should be the Yuma Visitor Center and the Colorado River State Historic Park, the former site of the Army Quartermaster Depot established in 1864. Stock up on brochures and maps and find the latest info on Visit Yuma’s food tours and specialty dinners which are a great way to experience the region’s agritourism.
The Park includes a visitor center, the office of the Depot Quartermaster, the officer’s quarters, the corral house, the storehouse, a passenger train car, and more. Visitors can learn about how supplies delivered by ship from the Sea of Cortez were distributed to Army forts throughout the Southwest.
Sitting on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River are the remains of Arizona’s famous Yuma Territorial Prison. On July 1, 1876, the first seven inmates entered the Territorial Prison at Yuma and were locked into the new cells they had built themselves. A total of 3,069 prisoners including 29 women lived within the walls during the prison’s 33 years of operation. You can tour the original cell blocks, guard tower, and solitary chamber. In the museum, browse prison artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the prison staff and the notorious convicts.
Explore Yuma’s lush parks and perhaps spot a LeConte’s thrasher or the elusive black rail. Be sure to pick up a copy of Finding Birds in Yuma County AZ by local birder Henry Detwiler available at the Visitor Information Center. East Wetlands Park offers 400 acres of wetlands at the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area; it’s part of an environmental restoration effort that’s doubled the bird population and increased species diversity. There are paved pathways suitable for all abilities.
See a 1907 Baldwin steam locomotive, hear a “ghost train” travel along the original railroad alignment, and learn about the historic importance of the Yuma Crossing. The outdoor exhibit area opened in 2010 where Madison Avenue meets the river―the exact site where the first railroad train entered Arizona in 1877.
Toast the survivors of the Territorial Prison at the Prison Hill Brewing Company with a craft beer and conversation. Then, continue a few blocks to Lutes Casino, a historic establishment dating back to 1901. Despite the name, there are no card tables or slot machines; however, you can shoot some pool, order food, shop, or eye the quirky décor: retro signage, vintage photos, and posters of iconic Hollywood stars.
Never had a date shake? Now is your chance. You’re in date country after all. At Martha’s Gardens sip on a Medjool shake, a sweet and creamy concoction made from Medjool dates grown right on-property. While indulging take a tour of the grounds to find out how these dates are cultivated in the desert (offered November–March only).
Converted from a vaudeville house, the Yuma Art Center features a pottery studio, an artists’ gift shop, four visual-art galleries, and a 1912 theater. Before you leave, pick up a map for a self-guided tour of Yuma’s public murals and sculptures. Don’t forget to snap some photos!
Now it’s time to stroll Yuma’s downtown center. Stretch your legs without stretching your wallet as you shop for handmade wares and agri-centric souvenirs at Brocket Farms, Colorado River Pottery, and Desert Olive Farms.
Round out the day with a stop at the historic Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens and Jack Mellon Mercantile. Named after the “Merchant Prince of Yuma” and a riverboat captain, respectively, these charming abodes are full of memorabilia and antiques, and frequently offer events such as tea time and haunted ghost tours.
Now an Arizona Historical Society museum, Sanguinetti House Museum chronicles E. F. Sanguinetti’s (1867-1945) life as the Merchant Prince of Yuma. Visit the museum and hear stories of how Sanguinetti came to Yuma as a penniless young man at just 15 years old. He quickly grew to become a civic-minded businessman whose various enterprises—electricity, ice house, ranching, farming, merchandising, banking, and real estate—advanced his own well-being and that of the community he loved.
Three national wildlife refuges in the Yuma area—Cibola, Imperial, and Kofa—make up one of the country’s largest contiguous protected areas for wildlife. With more than 1,000 square miles between them, their ecosystems include desert, desert upland, riparian, grasslands, and forest.
Alone in the open desert, I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy. The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before.
I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, and sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night. I have seemed to be at one with the world.
For RVers, the colder months provide opportunities to make the most of having a hotel on wheels. Make tracks in the snow to spots blanketed in white, follow fellow snowbirds to warmer shores, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet in places that are usually packed all summer long. Here are the best places to visit in your trailer, camper van, or motorhome during the winter. Be sure to check state travel advisories before you set out and please note that some sites may require advance booking.
The curving, dipping dunes of White Sands look snowier than your average ski resort and you can even sled down them. But, with daytime winter temperatures averaging 60 degrees it doesn’t feel that way until the sun dips down and it’s chilly enough for a campfire. There’s no RV camping in the park but there are several spots nearby from basic dry camping at Holloman Lake near the dunes to Alamogordo and Las Cruces where sites have full hook-ups and fenced-in patios.
What could possibly be more bizarrely beautiful than the teetering, towering hoodoo rock formations that rise like totems throughout Bryce Canyon National Park? Those same hoodoos speckled with bright white snow, that’s what. Misty mornings and pink skies make winter landscapes stunning. Several national park campsites with RV sites stay open and there are ranger-led snowshoe hikes too.
Prefer to give winter the cold shoulder? Make tracks for Yuma. The Sonoran Desert city can be unbearably hot in summer but its balmy winters are ideal. Yuma is the ideal city to visit for the winter season. Known as the Sunniest City on Earth, Yuma offers temperate winter weather, perfect for snowbirds to escape the snow and freezing temperatures up North. With sunny skies 91 percent of the year, Yuma is a premiere winter travel destination for those seeking a small town feel with big city amenities.
Temperatures can reach the high 60s here in winter which is much more pleasant than the often sweltering, throat-tightening summer heat. And the longer nights are a blessing in an area famed for its star-scattered dark skies. Snag a space at one of the designated camping areas like Jumbo Rocks and prepare to gaze upwards for hours. It can be chilly at night though that just means you can huddle around a campfire.
The weather on Padre Island near Corpus Christi stays sunny and warm even in winter and your neighbors are more likely to be chilled-out snowbirds escaping the cold than rowdy spring break crowds looking for thrills. Nab a spot at one of several RV parks then revel in the fact you can still feel warm breezes, comb beaches for shells, and watch spectacular sunsets (without catching a chill) in January or February.
Palm Springs is one of those places that look awfully good to an awful lot of people at this time of year. And the weather is not its only calling card. In Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, Indio, and the other desert resort cities in the Coachella Valley, you can camp for the winter in luxurious RV resorts that offer all sorts of amenities. Known for Olympic sized pools, tennis courts, and over one hundred world-class golf courses within 40 miles, this is truly upscale RV living.
The king of canyons is best viewed in peace and solitude—something that’s hard to achieve in peak season. Brave the chill and take your RV here when the mercury drops, the crowds drift away and the undulating rock formations look even more incredible. You can also view elk and deer which are more active on cooler days. Only the South Rim stays open in winter with several RV sites available.
Nestled along the banks of the slow-rolling Bayou Teche, Breaux Bridge, the “Crawfish Capital of the World,” is a gorgeous historic town with world-class restaurants and a thriving Cajun music and folk art scene. Breaux Bridge is a great place to stop off for a meal and an afternoon of antiquing and an even better place to camp at a local RV park and stay awhile. The bridge itself isn’t much to see (though you can’t miss it)—it’s a tall, slightly rusty metal drawbridge that spans the Teche (pronounced “tesh”). The downtown stretch of Bridge Street, though, is adorable. Antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants span several blocks.
This sprawling 600,000-acre state park between San Diego and Palm Springs has appeared in fewer movies than spotlight-hogging Joshua Tree National Park but manages equal levels of awe. While known for its trippy metal sculptures of dinosaurs and other strange creatures, the park has so much more to offer than a cool Instagram backdrop. Observe desert bighorn sheep, hike the Palm Canyon, and, when you get tired, head back to your camping site and revel in some of the country’s most mind-blowing stars in the night skies.
Slab City—an off-the-grid community that’s flush with eccentric desert art and even more eccentric characters—always makes for an interesting stopover. Be sure to check out man-made Salvation Mountain and wander the eerily beautiful Bombay Beach on the shores of the Salton Sea while you’re here.
Prefer snow-white sand to snow-white snow? Alabama’s Gulf Coast stays pretty mild and sunny all year-round making it a favorite spot for those escaping frigid winters and is now reopening after suffering damage during Hurricane Sally. There are those beaches, of course, and the area also has wetlands with trails, kayaking, and birdwatching. After a day of activities, wind down in one of the fun, quirky bars or seafood restaurants which serve the region’s prized Royal Red shrimp.
Starting on the outskirts of Lake Charles and ending at the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road is a network of byways where you’ll find more than 400 bird species, alligators galore, and 26 miles of Gulf of Mexico beaches. Also called “America’s Outback,” the Creole Nature Trail takes visitors through 180 miles of southwest Louisiana’s backroads. You’ll pass through small fishing villages, National Wildlife Refuges to reach the little-visited, remote Holly and Cameron beaches. Take a side trip down to Sabine Lake, or drive onto a ferry that takes visitors across Calcasieu Pass. Throughout the trip, expect to see exotic birds; this area is part of the migratory Mississippi Flyway.
With its rich tradition as a former copper mining hub, Ajo is a casual town with relaxed charm. Enjoy its mild climate, low humidity, and clear skies. Take in the historic Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the Downtown Historic District, Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, and panoramic views. Ajo is surrounded by 12 million acres of public and tribal land waiting to be explored. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge offer expansive hiking, camping, and birding places.
May the joy of today, bring forth happiness for tomorrow—and may the cold Alberta air stay up north!
On the banks of the Colorado River, Yuma is tucked in Arizona’s southwest corner and shares borders with California and Mexico. About halfway between San Diego and Tucson, Yuma is a great destination for RVing snowbirds. 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.
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. 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, click here.
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, Colorado River 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 its impressive canal systems. For more information, click here.
The Jewel of Historic Yuma — 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 transform the economy of Yuma with his business acumen heading into and through the start of the 20th century. The Sanguinetti House and Gardens stands to honor his contributions and provide a deeper look into Yuma’s past.
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.
Get Lost Looking at Stuff — You’ve seen the shows on television of “pickers” visiting vast collections of stuff, oftentimes many decades old. 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.
On the Town— At the end of the Gila Trail, Main Street has always been the heart of “old Yuma.” In 1849, more than 60,000 California-bound gold-seekers followed this path to the rope ferry across the Colorado River. But being so close to the river, downtown often flooded and its adobe buildings melted back into mud. Because the last “big one” was in 1916, most Main Street buildings now date from the 1920s.
Today, Yuma’s historic downtown offers a wide variety of shopping, dining, and old-fashioned street fairs and festivals.
Fruit of Kings — A food tour will enhance any visit to Yuma. The Yuma area now totals about 10 million pounds of Medjool dates a year, a $30 to $35 million dollar industry that employs more than 2,000 people annually. Since Yuma is a top producers of gourmet Medjools be sure to take a tour at Martha’s Gardens. After the tour ends, you’ll return to the farm store for samples and a delicious date milkshake, and we simply had to purchase a box of jumbo dates.
We’re Nuts about You!— The Peanut Patch has become a rich tradition in Southwest Arizona. A trip to Yuma simply would not be complete without stopping by for a visit. You will be a welcome guest of the George family. Inside the store are hundreds of different candies and natural snacks that, when combined make great gift baskets, boxes, and tins suitable for any gift-giving occasions. Free tours are available.
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
Discover Yuma’s storied history as a Colorado River crossing point
The Colorado River State Historic Park (formerly Yuma Crossing State Historic Park) sits on the bank of the Colorado where river captains once sailed from the Gulf of California to unload supplies then kick up their heels in the bustling port of Yuma.
The park is located on a portion of the grounds of the old U.S. Army Quartermaster Depot established in 1864. This site is significant in the history of the Arizona Territory. The City of Yuma, through an Intergovernmental Agreement, supports operational costs at this Park. The purpose of the Park is to protect its historic structures and interpret the diverse history of the site.
Ocean vessels brought supplies around the Baja Peninsula from California to Port Isabel, near the mouth of the Colorado. From there, cargo was loaded onto smaller steamships and brought upstream to Yuma. The depot operated from 1864 until 1883, when the arrival of the railroad made the long steamship route unnecessary.
Many of the original structures from that time are still standing. Made of adobe, essentially mud and plant material, they have survived well in Yuma’s dry climate. In fact, since their original construction, the buildings have been used by the Weather Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Signal Corps, the Border Survey, and the Yuma County Water Users Association as recently as the late 1980s.
Colorado River State Historic Park tells the history of the Crossing from prehistoric times until the present set in the backdrop of the old Quartermaster’s Depot. The area is also recognized as a key location in the cultural development of western history by the National Endowment for the Arts. 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.
Hernando de Alarcon, who accompanied Coronado on his search for the Seven Cities of Cibola, passed this site in 1540. Padre Kino saw the present location of the Quartermaster’s Depot in 1683, and Padre Graces established a mission directly across the river and was later killed there by the Indians in 1781.
Yuma began to experience the American westward surge when countless immigrants crossed by ferry from Yuma on their way to the California gold fields in 1849. In 1850, a military post was established at Yuma, and when rich placer gold strikes on the Colorado River precipitated a gold rush in 1858, Yuma experienced a boom. In 1871 Yuma incorporated and became the county seat of Yuma County.
Major William B. Hooper established the Quartermaster Depot on a high bluff overlooking the Colorado River. Supplies were brought from California by ocean-going vessels traveling around the tip of the Baja Peninsula and then north as far as the mouth of the Colorado River.
At this point supplies were transferred to river steamboats and brought up river to the Quartermaster Depot which served as a storage yard and a military supply center for fourteen military posts in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Southern Utah, and West Texas. The Depot maintained a six months’ supply of ammunition, clothing, and food at all times.
The depot operated from 1864 until 1883, when the arrival of the railroad made the long steamship route unnecessary.
Today, Colorado River State Historic Park preserves the history of the facility while providing additional information about Yuma as a Colorado River community and the engineering behind one of its impressive canal systems.
While visiting the park we found Back in Time, a delightful little pie shop and tea room tucked away in one of the buildings. We bought a whole pecan pie to enjoy back in the motorhome. The pie was incredible with an amazingly flakey crust. Sandwiches, a mixed greens salad, and three tier tea service are also available. The lady that runs the shop is very friendly and helpful, not to mention that she is also an excellent cook!
Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.
Because Yuma is located near the confluence of the Gila and Colorado rivers in the southwest corner of the state, it’s no surprise that Yuma County’s top industry is agriculture. In fact, the agriculture industry in Yuma County represents an annual gross economic return of $3.2 billion, or more than one-third of Arizona’s annual total of $9.2 billion.
Several factors account for that amazing total: Plentiful sunshine, ample labor, and high-quality irrigation water. The area also has fertile soil from sediment deposited by the Colorado River over millions of years.
Visit Yuma, the local visitor center, offers four specialty tours for a farm-to-table experience. A local grower leads Field to Feast Tours at the University of Arizona research farm. Participants are given a list of ingredients needed for lunch and sent out into the field to pick them. Culinary students from Arizona Western College then use these fresh veggies to make lunch.
Other popular foodie tours include Date Night Dinners served in a date grove where every course features the “fruit of kings”, Savor Yuma a progressive dinner that stops at three local restaurants, and Farmer’s Wife Dinners which celebrates fresh produce and farming traditions. If you want to go, book early.
Since Yuma is one of the world’s top producers of gourmet Medjool dates, we took a tour at Martha’s Gardens. In 1990, Nels and Martha Rogers bought a parcel of previously unused desert, cleared the land, drilled wells, and installed a drip irrigation system.
The original planting of 300 Medjool date palm offshoots thrived. Today the farm has around 8,000 palms. Only 250 of the trees are males since it’s the females that produce the fruit. The labor-intensive process of date farming includes hand pollination of female trees with pollen from male trees.
After the tour ended, we returned to the farm store for a delicious date milkshake, and we simply had to purchase a box of jumbo dates.
Date production in the Yuma area now totals about 10 million pounds a year, a $30 to $35 million dollar industry that employs more than 2,000 people annually.
The date is one of the oldest cultivated tree crops with records showing that in Mesopotamia it was cultivated more than 5,000 years ago. This valuable food helped sustain desert peoples and nomadic wanderers of the Middle East and North Africa.
The date was introduced to the western hemisphere by Spanish missionaries who planted date seeds around the missions in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A few of the original palms or their offshoots (suckers growing from the base of the female palm) are still found in Southern California and Mexico. There were many varieties imported in the following years but the most significant was the Medjool date.
The Medjool originates in Morocco. Because of a disease outbreak in Morocco, eleven Medjool offshoots were imported in 1927 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). To be sure they were disease-free the trees were placed in quarantine for seven years in the state of Nevada. Nine plants survived and in 1935 they were removed and planted at the USDA date section in Indio, California. After several more years, offshoots from those were removed and distributed to a few growers. Five or more years later, quality Mejools were harvested.
Twenty-four offshoots of those original trees were planted in the Bard Valley in 1944 by Stanley Dillman, date pioneer in the region.
Thanks to ideal soil and weather, the area around Yuma and Bard is now one of the world’s largest producers of premium-quality Medjools. Dates are harvested from the end of August through the first weeks of October. Each date palm must be climbed approximately 16-18 times a year to carry out hand operations necessary to ensure a good crop including pollination, thinning, separating strands of fruit with metal rings to help the air circulate and finally, bagging the date bunches.
Dates are high in fiber, potassium, and anti-oxidants and contain no fat. They are an organic product as no pesticides or chemicals are used on the trees or the dates. Many date confections are made locally, along with a local favorite: Dates shakes, or milkshakes made with ice cream and dates. The indescribable joy of a good date shake!
Products from the soil are still the greatest industry in the world.
Discover Yuma’s storied history as a Colorado River crossing point
We first visited Yuma in the late 1990s and found little to hold our interest.
Here was a desert town blessed with a river and you couldn’t
find it, just a place of overgrown brush and littered garbage. We revisited
Yuma a few years later and nothing changed. The town felt rundown and having a
trashy core seemed to impact everything.
What a difference! We were amazed at the transformation.
Where there had been piles of garbage, there was a park. Where there had been a
tangle of overgrowth, there were lighted pathways, picnic tables, sandy beaches,
and groves of cottonwood trees.
The river existed. And it flowed right through the heart of town. And I realized what had been missing. The Colorado River is more than a waterway. It is the beating heart of Yuma.
Since we wanted to see this transformation up close we
visited the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area and wandered the Pivot Point
Interpretive Plaza, Gateway Park, and West Wetlands before crossing the river
on 4th Avenue.
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, we found a revitalized park adorned with plaques detailing the railroad,
the nearby tribal communities, and river history.
You can climb into the cab (but please not on top of it).
With 16 colorful panels describing how people crossed the mighty Colorado River
in Yuma over the centuries, the plaza provides an excellent introduction to the
history of Yuma Crossing, a National Historic Landmark.
It also preserves the concrete pivot on which the original
swing-span bridge turned to allow steamships to pass on the river—which before
dams were built and water was diverted to Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas—came
up to the level of the plaza. A staircase from the plaza leads into Gateway
Gateway Park is Yuma’s downtown riverfront park. With
convenient vehicle access of Gila Street and shaded parking under Interstate 8,
Gateway Park has a large beach, picnic armadas close to the water, restrooms,
playground, and large stretches of tree-covered lawns. It is located at the
center of the riverfront multi-use pathways with a magnificent view of the
historic Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge.
The West Wetlands was the original site of Yuma’s “City
Dump”. It closed in 1970 and Yumans dreamed of converting these 110 blighted
acres into a beautiful riverfront park. Today these dreams are becoming a
reality. With local, state, and federal financial support, the first phase of
the park opened in 2002, including the lake, picnic armadas, boat ramp,
restrooms, parking, and picnic areas. Each year since, more and more features
have been added including the Ed Pastor Hummingbird Garden, a lighted multi-use
pathway, Army of the West statue, a disc golf course, and the Stewart Vincent
Wolf Memorial Playground, that kids love to call “Castle Park”.
Another day we visited the East Wetlands and Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, drove over the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge, and wandered the Sunrise Point Park (part of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area).
Through a unique partnership among the Quechan Indian Tribe,
City of Yuma, Arizona Fish and Game Department, and the Yuma Crossing National
Heritage Area, more than 200,000 native species of trees and grasses have been
planted over its 400 acres since 2004. On the south side of the Colorado River,
there is a 3.5-mile signed hiking trail. For those interested in a shorter
walk, there is a beautiful overlook along the river about one-half mile
upstream from Gateway Park affording a 360-degree view of the wetlands. Part of
the paved riverfront path extends along the edge of the Yuma East Wetlands on a
On the north side of the river, the Quechan Indian Tribe has
developed Sunrise Point Park (Anya Nitz Pak), overlooking a restored marsh and
40 acres of the finest stands of native cottonwoods and willows along the lower
Colorado River. The park is reflective of the tribe’s culture.
The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our