Today many people think of Yuma as a convenient stop for gas and a meal between Phoenix or Tucson and San Diego. While this is surely true, the town boasts some historic sites and agricultural tours (Yuma is the lettuce capital of the U.S.) that may prompt you to pause here a bit longer.
It’s difficult to imagine the lower Colorado River, now dammed and bridged, as either a barrier or a means of transportation, but until the early part of the 20th century this section of the great waterway was a force to contend with. Records show that since at least 1540 the Spanish were using Yuma (then the site of a Quechan Indian village) as a ford across a relatively shallow stretch of the Colorado.
Three centuries later, the advent of the shallow-draft steamboat made the settlement a point of entry for fortune seekers heading through the Gulf of California to mining sites in eastern Arizona. Fort Yuma was established in 1850 to guard against Indian attacks, and by 1873 the town was a county seat, a U.S. port of entry, and an army depot.
During World War II, the Yuma Proving Ground was used to train bomber pilots, and General Patton readied some of his desert war forces for battle at secret areas in the city. Many who served here during the war returned to Yuma to retire, and the city’s population swells during the winter months with retirees from cold climates who park their homes on wheels at one of the many RV communities. One fact may explain this: according to National Weather Service statistics, Yuma is the sunniest city in the United States.