The Yuma Arizona area has a rich and often unusual history. While researching information for the Yuma Zone, we have run across interesting facts that often do not fit else where on the site. Therefore we have compiled this listing of Yuma trivia, Yuma oddities, and Yuma fun facts. We hope you enjoy this page of generally useless but entertaining information.
Arizona on the western side of the Colorado River
The Colorado River is often referred to as Arizona’s West Coast as the river originally served as the border between Arizona and the neighboring states of California & Nevada. Examination of Yuma area maps finds several discrepancies in this rule. This is due to the meandering of the river, the channelization of the river, and the lowering of river levels due to upstream diversion dams.In the early 60’s California and Arizona agreed on a new definition of the common border that did not strictly follow the path of the river. As a result of the new border definition the Paradise Casino was originally able to be built so that it lied half in California and half in Arizona! Recently, the California side of the Casino was closed so that the new Q casino near Andrade could be operated.
There is an 8 mile section of the Colorado River above the Ocean to Ocean Bridge that is found entirely in Arizona. Further upstream from just below the Laguna Dam all the way to the Imperial Dam the river channel is found in California
Daylight Saving Time is not used in Arizona.
Every March millions of Americans turn their clocks ahead 1 hour in the yearly ritual known as Daylight Saving Time. Arizona does not participate in the ritual for a very good reason. It turns out that the extra hour of daylight leads to more energy use due to workers coming home an hour earlier and turning on their air conditioners. Back in 1968 the Arizona Legislature repealed the use of daylight saving time. It was noted at the time that Daylight Saving Time enhanced the revenues of power companies while making residents wait for an additional hour for relief from the blazing sun in Arizona.
Fast Track Weddings Hollywood Style
In the 1920’s, through the 1940’s Yuma was a popular destination for the Hollywood crowd. Considering the condition of the roads and the distance that needed to be travelled, one might wonder what the big draw in Yuma was. The answer is wedding chapels! It seems that Arizona’s laws at the time required no waiting period or blood tests in order to be married. The age of consent being 15 also seemed to draw quite a few couples intent on marriage.Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame was married 3 times in Yuma. Other notable people who entered wedded bliss in Yuma include Loretta Young, Tom Mix, John Barrymore, Mary Astor, and Bette Davis
First European to visit Yuma.
The first recorded visit to Yuma by a European was in 1540. Hernando de Alarcon was a Spanish Navigator that disproved the myth that Baja California was an island.
La Paz County created from Northern Yuma County
In 1982 an election was held to split Yuma County in two. Beginning on January First of 1983 La Paz County was created from the northern 45% of Yuma County. The county seat for La Paz County is in Parker Arizona.·
McPhaul Swinging Bridge
Located 18 miles North on Highway 95, the McPhaul “Swinging Bridge to Nowhere” is a Yuma oddity. Originally the Dome Bridge, the McPhaul Bridge was constructed by Yuma County and the State of Arizona in 1929. Built to allow users of the Yuma-to-Quartzite road (now Highway 95) to cross the Gila River, this suspension bridge, with a span of 798 feet, is no longer used after the road was diverted. Although damaged in 1990 by fire, this bridge outlasted its replacement which was destroyed by the flood of 1993.
Miniature Church is tribute to wife!
Miniature Church is tribute to wife!: In 1996 local Yuma farmer Loren Pratt built a tiny miniature church. Located adjacent to farm fields about 15 miles north of Yuma, the tribute to Pratt’s late wife Lois is often a source of curiosity to motorist driving by on U.S. Highway 95. The little church was destroyed in a storm several years ago but has since been rebuilt to offer motorist a chance to “Pause, Rest, and Worship”.
Telegraph Pass, The Wrong Way Freeway
When Interstate 8 was built through Telegraph Pass in the 60’s, engineers were faced with a challenge. They needed to keep the grades at less than 6 percent in both directions. Due to the terrain it was not possible to widen the existing U.S 80 highway to the width required for the freeway.The solution was found by examining the previous routes through the Gila Mountains. The Eastbound route simply used the existing route of the U.S. 80 highway that had been built in 1948. The Westbound route was built to generally follow the alignment of the original 1928 U.S. 80 roadway. In order to keep the grade under 6 percent the road had to be straightened somewhat. The other issue was the 1928 alignment crossed over the 1948 alignment. This lead to the unusual arrangement of the Westbound lanes being to the South instead of the North.
The Great Western
During the 1840’s the largest ocean going steam ship was named the Great Western. The famous steamer was known throughout the country for being gigantic. When U.S. soldiers first spied Sarah, an army wife that stood 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed in at over 200 pounds, they naturally compared her to the great steamship. Soon the woman was known to all as the Great Western! I have found many accounts of Sarah Bowman and they differ quite a bit, so the below is the general gist of her story.
Sarah was an unusual woman not only by virtue of her size and fiery red hair. Sarah was a camp follower who married a succession of Army men in order to travel with the Army. After her first marriage she became El Paso’s first known prostitute. Travelling with her second husband during the Mexican American War, she fought along side the troops in several battles, including the Battle of Buena Vista where her husband was reportedly killed. As only married women were allowed to travel with the Army, the Great Western needed a new Army husband in order to return to the United States with the troops. Her 15,000 dollar dowry quickly acquired her a third army husband so she could make the trip.
The Great Western arrived at Fort Yuma in 1853 with her fourth and last husband with the last name of Bowman. Sarah had the first adobe house built across the river and became the first resident of Yuma. The house quickly became the first commercial building in Yuma when Sarah returned to her profession using the house as a restaurant, saloon and “hotel”! When more girls were brought to the house to service the troops, the Great Western became Yuma’s first madam.
Despite her reputation as Yuma’s first business girl and pimp, the Great Western was both a loved and well respected citizen. When she died from a spider bite in 1866, she was buried at the Fort Yuma cemetery with full military honors. When the Army moved all of the graves from the Fort Yuma Cemetery to San Francisco’s Presidio in 1890, the bones of the Great Western were said to be the largest remains that were moved.
The Yuma Criminals
The Yuma High School athletic teams are known as ‘the Criminals’, or “Crims’. One story is, in 1913, the Yuma football team traveled to Phoenix to play the ‘Coyotes’. Yuma won. Someone said it was ‘criminal’ the way Yuma won. The Coyotes supposedly began to call the Yuma team ‘Criminals’. They Yuma H.S. website says that at first, ‘Criminals’ was a fighting word, but by 1917 they had become proud of the nickname and officially adopted it. The other story is that they were called by that nickname because in 1910 the school moved into the newly abandoned Arizona Territorial Prison. They had been sharing the Main Street school with the elementary school, but it was just too crowded. For three years, teachers taught classes in the cells, and assemblies were held in the second story hospital which had recently housed tuberculosis patients, among others. Then, in 1912 or ’13, a bond election was held, and passed, and construction on the new high school was begun. In 1913, school began in the newly built ‘Main’ building. Houses quickly started to spring up around the school, which was out to the west of town (in the boonies, so to speak). Yuma High students and alumni are very proud of their nickname, and its uniqueness. Several of the homes around the school have the Crim logo (a blue ‘tough’ guys face. To me, it looks like he’s sneering or growling.) painted at the bottom of their driveways.
Submitted by Lorna
Yuma County Land Ownership:
According to the Arizona Department of Commerce, 42% of the Land in Yuma County is owned by the U.S Bureau of Land Management. Another 40% is considered public land, while the State of Arizona owns 5%. 13% of the land in Yuma County is owned by Corporations or Individuals.
The Yuma Siphon
Visitors to the Yuma Crossing Park aka The Yuma Quartermasters Depot are often surprised to see a massive amount of water appearing out of nowhere behind the park. What many are not aware of is that this water seen bubbling out of the ground is actually flowing under the Colorado River through over 1000 feet of 14 foot pipe.The Yuma Siphon was completed in 1912 in order to bring irrigation water to the Yuma area. The inverted siphon design is buried 50 feet under the river bed. Early divers who constructed the siphon were provided air by a single cylinder hand operated air pump.The water was originally diverted at the Laguna Dam and piped under the river in order to bring cleaner water to area. When the Imperial Dam and All American Canal was later completed, the water source for the siphon was changed. This allowed Yuma agriculture to take advantage of the lower salinity of the upstream water, as well as the settling ponds used to remove silt from water diverted to the canal.
Do You know of oddities or trivia about Yuma or Imperial County?
Please let us know the details by submitting to the YumAZone!