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Unique geography created the Yuma Crossing - and shaped the history of our community and nation. Standing on the banks of the Easiest Yuma AZ to meet a girl River in Yuma today, it is hard to imagine the river in its original, untamed state. Yet, in the days before dams were constructed up and down its length, the waters of the Colorado shaped the geography - and history - of the entire Southwest.

In those days, the full volume of water that now sustains life in seven western states and two countries ran by Yuma's doorstep - and often ran wild. The course of the river was unpredictable from year to year and from season to season - and in the table-flat floodplains where it met the Gila, the riverbed often stretched across 15 miles of silty bottoms laced with unexpected back channels and even pockets of quicksand. Getting across was no easy matter, even when the river was not in flood. But at the place that would become Yuma, two outcroppings of granite held their place against the river's might and squeezed it into a narrower channel.

Here the waters ran swift, but the banks held firm and the passage was, if still hazardous, at least predictable. So from the time that the earliest people took up residence in the area, this was known as the easiest and safest place to cross the river: the Yuma Crossing.

The first Europeans arrived in the Yuma area in - some 80 years before the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock - when Spanish expeditions led by the Hernando de Alarcon and Melchior Diaz sailed up the Colorado from the Sea of Cortez. They noted the natural crossing of the Colorado as a potential site for settlement because of its strategic location. But these Spanish explorers also found thriving communities already in existence along the banks of the river - ancestors of the present-day Quechan and Cocopah tribes - hunting, fishing and growing crops.

The explorers called the Indians the Yumas, from the Spanish word for smoke humobecause smoke from their cooking fires filled the valley as the Spaniards surveyed the Crossing from "Indian Hill.

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Early expeditions aside, the Indians of the Yuma area were left largely undisturbed until the s, when Father Eusebio Kino arrived in Sonora to establish missions and convert the native people to Christianity. Father Kino's expeditions throughout what is now Arizona, New Mexico and California mapped an area miles wide and miles long, including what is now Yuma County. He led the first land expedition to Baja California, confirming that it is a peninsula, not an island.

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But it was not until that Yuma became firmly fixed on maps of New Spain. That is when the viceroy of New Spain charged the captain of the presidio at Tubac near present-day Tucson with finding a practical overland route from Sonora to northern California.

Juan Bautista de Anza arrived in Yuma in January and established relations with the Quechans, who controlled the river crossing. That friendly contact proved critical to the survival of Anza's men when the expedition became lost in the wilderness of sand dunes to the west and was forced to retrace its steps to the banks of the Colorado. In terms of the larger world, Yuma had "arrived. However, this increased the pressure for the Spanish to control the strategic Yuma Crossing and to convert the Quechan.

Inthe Quechans rebelled against Spanish oppression, injustice and a ificant loss of their crops and food stores.

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The Spanish settlement at the Crossing was destroyed with many Spaniards killed and taken captive. The Spanish largely retreated and never again tried to dominate the Quechan or control the Yuma Crossing. By the time Mexico won its independence from Spain ina decade of war had destroyed the silver-mining industry and left the country bankrupt. The northern presidios and missions began to wither as mountain men and other explorers from the United States moved into the area.

The growing influx of Americans into Mexico's northern reaches eventually led to the outbreak of war in During this period, the U. Army used Mormon volunteers under the command of regular Army officers to blaze a southern wagon trail to California, crossing the Colorado River at Yuma Jan. After the U. What really put Yuma on the map for Americans was the gold rush ofwhen thousands of fortune hunters headed west, seeking the quickest way to reach California.

In one year, more than 60, travelers passed through what was then Colorado City, following the Gila Trail - present-day Main Street - to the rope ferry across the Colorado. Reflecting the town's new importance, the U. Army in established Fort Yuma on Indian Hill, overlooking the strategic crossing from across the river.

And inthe Gden Purchase was ratified, finally making the portion of Arizona south of the Gila River - and the Colorado City town site - part of the United States. At the same time, the U. Army determined that the easiest way to supply new forts in the lands taken from Mexico was to bring supplies by sea, then up the river to Yuma. From Yuma, thousands of tons of supplies were transported by mule teams to outposts throughout the Southwest.

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The U. Army Quartermaster Depot - now a state historical park - was in operation from the s to the s. Bythe first stage road was built from San Diego to San Antonio, with stages carried across the river aboard the rope ferry. The first post office also was established that year in Colorado City - only to be washed away by flooding in When the town was rebuilt, it was renamed Arizona City. InLt. Joseph C.

Ives led a steamship expedition upriver to the approximate site of today's Hoover Dam, near Las Vegas. By the s, six steamships and easiest Yuma AZ to meet a girl barges were traveling the lower part of the river and decimating the native forests of willow and cottonwood to fuel their boilers.

On the eve of the Civil War, Arizona City's position on the Colorado and its status as a ocean port made it one of the busiest - and wildest towns - in the old West. Just imagine the human confluence on these river banks of seafaring sailors, river pilots, soldiers, muleskinners, miners, trappers, outlaws, cowboys, Indians and bandits - and of course, all those others who made their living by meeting their needs, whether for supplies and provisions, strong drink, rowdy entertainment or warm female companionship.

Amid the Civil War inPresident Lincoln ed the bill creating the territorial government, and inpony express service was established through Arizona City. With big plans following the end of the war, the Arizona City town site was laid out in with a foot right of way for Main Street to accommodate heavy wagon traffic and promote commercial development.

Formally incorporated as Arizona City inthe town was renamed once more in - known now and hereafter as "Yuma. The newly renamed city gained one of its lasting claims to fame inwhen the Yuma Territorial Prison opened on the twin hill across from the fort.

A fairly enlightened institution despite its fearsome reputation, the prison remained in operation until ; its buildings were used by Yuma High School from to and now are the main attraction at Arizona's most-visited state historic park.

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Shortly after the prison opened, the railroad arrived - eventually making possible the and versions of the movie to Yuma the plot of the movie being whether notorious outlaw Ben Wade can be held to be transported to Yuma's prison on the train departing at that hour.

The first train crossed into Arizona from California in on an alignment that corresponds to present-day Madison Avenue. The pivot that supported the swing-span rail bridge - which opened for steamship traffic to pass - still exists and is the centerpiece of Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza, where Madison Avenue meets the river. As was true for much of Arizona's atypical development, the railroad line was built from west to east beginning in Yuma.

This eventually became the main line of the Southern Pacific, one of the great coast-to-coast railro of the era.

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As the Wild West era ended, Yuma also changed, though it continued to take a pioneering role in regional development. An ambitious irrigation scheme called the "Yuma Project" was the first major undertaking authorized for the new U. Reclamation Service now Bureau of Reclamation in ; actual construction of the Laguna Dam began in Completed inthe Laguna Dam was the first dam on the Colorado River, marking the end of the steamboat era - and the beginning of irrigated agriculture.

As part of the Yuma project, a massive tunnel - the Yuma Siphon - was dug underneath the Colorado River. Completed in - the same year Arizona became a state - this engineering marvel still delivers irrigation water for the Yuma Valley through a foot-diameter concrete tube that reaches feet from the California side of the river to just below old City Hall. You can learn more about the project - and get a look at the foot deep Arizona exit shaft of the Siphon - at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historical Park.

And Yuma was still a place for firsts: the first plane to land in Arizona touched down here in ; the first highway crossing of the Colorado River was the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge in ; Fly Field now Marine Corps Air Station Yuma was one of the first airports in Arizona and in hosted 25 planes in a cross-country air race. As the Depression gripped the nation, Yuma's economy was sustained by the construction of the Imperial Dam and All-American Canal; in fact, the Coronado Motel in was the first modern- style motel to be built in Arizona with side-by-side rooms in a single building versus an "auto court" with separate cabins.

Less happily, because of the huge migration through Yuma toward the "promised land" of California, state police were posted on the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge.

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If travelers could not show that they had money in their pockets or a firm job in California, they were not permitted to cross the river. Many people turned around and settled in Yuma - the origin of the neighborhood still known as "Okietown". After Pearl Harbor, Yuma went on war footing along with the rest of the country. With its first classes graduating inthe base became one of the busiest flight schools in the nation, training pilots to fly AT-6 single-engine trainers, T multi-engine trainers and B Flying Fortresses.

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InMajor Gen. George S. Patton established the Desert Training Center later known as California-Arizona Maneuver Area across a huge swath of desert straddling the state line from Nevada to the Mexican border. More than 1 million men trained for combat under harsh desert conditions at four camps in Arizona and seven in California - with Hyder, Horn, Laguna and Pilot Knob in the Yuma area. Because the flow of the river there could be controlled, it was a perfect place to try out bridging equipment.

Italian prisoners of war used to build the facilities were allowed to visit town once a week.