- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park Review
The most notorious tourist sight in town, Yuma Territorial Prison, now an Arizona state historic park, was built for the most part by the convicts who were incarcerated here from 1876 until 1909, when the prison outgrew its location. The hilly site on the Colorado River, chosen for security purposes, precluded further expansion.
Visitors gazing today at the tiny cells that held six inmates each, often in 115°F heat, are likely to be appalled, but the prison—dubbed the Country Club of the Colorado by locals—was considered a model of enlightenment by turn-of-the-20th-century standards: in an era when beatings were common, the only punishments meted out here were solitary confinement and assignment to a dark cell. The complex housed a hospital as well as Yuma's only public library, where the 25¢ that visitors paid for a prison tour financed the acquisition of new books.
The 3,069 prisoners who served time at what was then the territory's only prison included men and women from 21 different countries. They came from all social classes and were sent up for everything from armed robbery and murder to polygamy. R.L. McDonald, incarcerated for forgery, had been the superintendent of the Phoenix public school system. Chosen as the prison bookkeeper, he absconded with $130 of the inmates' money when he was released.
The mess hall opened as a museum in 1940, and the entire prison complex was designated a state historic park in 1961.
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- $71 -- Weekends at Tucson Hotel, Save 25% Courtyard Tucson Williams Centre
- $89 -- Downtown Phoenix 4-Diamond Hotel at 60% Off The Westin Phoenix Downtown
- $75 -- Downtown Phoenix 4-Diamond Hotel at 70% Off — $75 Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel
- $99 & up -- Tucson AAA 4-Diamond Resort, Save 40% — $99 The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa
Will be driving (with my wife & two small kids) from Malibu to Santa Fe in a couple of weeks. Read more
· News & Features
Niagara Falls is a bucket-list-worthy sight to behold, whether you're ogling it from the Canada side, ... Read more