We stayed in Yuma, AZ at Blue Sky RV Resort for a week as a stop over between Tucson and San Diego. Honestly, we’re glad we didn’t plan on staying longer because there really isn’t too much to do in Yuma.
The one thing we found to do was to visit the Yuma Territorial Prison. It was cool to see this old prison turned historical park. The prison was opened in 1876 after being constructed by the prisoners themselves. Talk about digging your own grave – or in this case, building your own cell! It was open until 1909 and housed a total of 3,069 prisoners, including 29 women, during its 33 years in operation.
It was interesting to walk around the property. We went into the old cells that slept six people in a tiny room. We also ventured into the “Dark Cell” for incorrigible prisoners. It was a solitary confinement cell that was completely dark except for the light that came from a small ventilation shaft in the ceiling during the day!
There is a museum on the property that houses artifacts from the prison as well as shares many interesting stories about the prison and its inmates. In my opinion, the museum seemed to romanticize the inmates a bit, especially the female prisoners. Like Pearl Hart, the “Bandit Queen.” She, along with a male companion, robbed the Globe to Florence stagecoach and was sentenced to 5 years in Yuma. The information about her said she “used her feminine wiles with both prisoners and guards alike, and was pardoned after 2 years.” Never the less, the stories were interesting. They also had a booth in the corner where you could take your mugshot. I had to laugh at the signage next to it – “You can be a convict too!” As if that was a desirable thing to be. I had some fun and took the touristy picture. 🙂
We also went up into the Main Guard Tower, which overlooked the prison and the grounds. There is a great view of the Colorado river from up there as well.
After we were done that the prison, we walked down the path to the river and relaxed for a bit.
The other activity we did while in Yuma, wasn’t in Yuma or even Arizona at all. We drove about an hour to the Imperial Sand Dunes just over the border of California. You may recognize them as the planet Tatooine from Stars Wars.
The Imperial Sand Dunes are one of the county’s largest mass of inland sand dunes, extending for more than 40 miles. People come from all over to ride their off-road vehicles through this giant sandbox. Unfortunately, we don’t have an ATV or Sandrail, so we just walked some of it on foot – not nearly as much fun!
We saw the remnants of the Old Plank Road. It was built in 1915 to connect Southern California to Arizona and provided the last link in a commercial route between San Diego and Yuma.
Only fragments of the plank road exist today. Even the “protected” section has nearly been swallowed up by the dunes around it. It did make for some pretty cool imagery with wild flowers popping up from the old wood and metal.
We walked along the remnants of the road and into to the dunes. Even though it was March, it was almost 100 degrees out there. That didn’t stop us from having a little fun and taking silly photos. Even thought it seems like we were in the middle of nowhere, we were reminded of how close we were to the Mexican border by the border patrol surveillance trucks and big black fence not 500 yards from us.
If you plan on visiting Yuma, make it a short stay. Unless you are retired and ok with playing bingo every night, there’s not much to do there.