U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jeffrey S. Caraway hikes up a sand dune at the Imperial Dunes in Yuma. (Photo by Cpl. Jamean Berry)
Yuma is nestled in the southwest corner of Arizona, bordering California and Mexico. The city is home to nearly 100,000 residents, and the population nearly doubles during the winter season with incoming tourists. The area offers a wide array of cultural and entertainment options including annual festivals and events, theaters, outdoor recreation and historic sites.
For more information on Yuma, check out the Yuma Visitors Bureau’s website at www.visityuma.com or call 928-376-0100. The following is merely a sampling of the cultural and recreational opportunities in Yuma.
The Yuma Arts Center features the 643-seat Historic Yuma Theatre, which dates to 1902, four visual arts galleries, multipurpose classrooms and artist studios, a pottery studio, an artisan gift shop, a black and white photography darkroom and more. The center also coordinates festivals and special events, like the Children’s Festival of the Arts, YumaCon, Art in the Park, ARTbeat and an annual dinner theater production. Visit www.yumaaz.gov/parks-and-recreation/venues/art-center.html.
Ballet Yuma is recognized nationally as one of the country’s best pre-professional ballet companies. Ballet Yuma presents a number of performances each year and its official school, Yuma Ballet Academy, offers classes for all levels of ballet. For information on upcoming performances, visit www.balletyuma.org.
Colorado River Crossing Hot Air Balloon Festival
Held in November, the Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival attracts some of the most colorful and unique hot air balloons from the West and Southwest. With the Colorado River and Sonoran Desert as its backdrop, the event features mass balloon launches and the Desert Balloon Glow. The Desert Balloon Glow showcases tethered balloons with their burners firing at full blast, lighting up the night sky of the Yuma desert. Set to music, the event is a must-see. Visit www.crcballoons.com.
Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area
The Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area extends for more than 40 miles along the eastern edge of the California Imperial Valley. The dunes, which often reach heights of 300 feet, are ideal for various recreational pursuits. Off-road vehicle enthusiasts of all types can take on sandy challenges at the dunes. For those who prefer a calmer trip, the dunes offer fantastic scenery, with rare plants and animals, and opportunities for solitude. Visit www.visityuma.com/sand-dunes.html.
See ancient rock carvings and more recent inscriptions from Spanish explorers and Forty-Niners at two nearby sites: Antelope Hill and Painted Rock. Antelope Hill sandstone petroglyphs depict mostly human figures. Experts believe the images served both religious and artistic purposes and may have been a means of communication among area tribes. The Painted Rock site features approximately 800 images on basalt boulders. Petroglyphs here include concentric spirals often found at Hohokam sites, scenes of mounted riders made after the Spanish introduced horses to the area and pioneer inscriptions. Visit www.visityuma.com/rocks-and-petroglyphs.html.
Check out the Colorado Riverfront on a paved, lighted pathway via foot or bike. The trail runs from Joe Henry Memorial Park to Pacific Avenue and Avenue 2E. The trail links up to various parks and local sites, including West Wetlands Park, Pivot Point Interpretative Plaza, the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge and the East Wetlands. Visit www.visityuma.com/riverfront-.html.
Yuma Community Theater has been performing in Yuma since 1980. The all-volunteer group entertains audiences with multiple productions each year. For information on upcoming performances, visit www.yumacommunitytheater.org.
Yuma is home to three wildlife refuges, which cover more than 700,000 acres of desert, mountain and riparian habitat. The Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, which was home to the Yuma Tribes of the Colorado River, protects the marshes that serve as wintering grounds for migratory waterfowl and other wildlife. The Imperial National Wildlife Refuge protects 30 miles of wildlife habitat along the lower Colorado River. The Kofa National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect desert bighorn sheep and other native wildlife.
Each refuge has nature trails and provides opportunities for watching wildlife. Camping, fishing, hunting and boating are allowed in certain areas of the refuges. Visit www.fws.gov/refuge/Cibola, www.fws.gov/refuge/Imperial and www.fws.gov/refuge/Kofa.
Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park
From 1864 to 1883, the Yuma Quartermaster Depot served as a supply lifeline to military posts in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas. The depot’s warehouses held supplies of clothing, food, ammunition and other goods for forts in the Southwest. Today, the 10-acre park features some of the oldest and best-preserved buildings in the state, with five buildings that date back to the depot’s earliest days. Visit www.visityuma.com/quartermaster-depot.html.
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
Walk through the actual strap iron cells and solitary chamber of Arizona Territory’s first prison. Built in 1876, the former prison is now a museum. See photographs and colorful exhibits of former prisoners and the life they had to endure. The park also hosts events like the Gathering of the Gunfighters, which features Wild West re-enactment groups, skits and vendors. Visit www.yumaprison.org.