Castle Dome Mine Museum

Castle Dome Mine Museum

Last Friday, we visited the Castle Dome Mine Museum, located 10 miles off Highway 95 at mile marker 55. Beware: 7 of those 10 miles are on a dusty gravel road. The Museum is divided into two parts. In one part, a collection of buildings have been reconstructed from the surrounding area and filled with artifacts. We walked in a loop with opportunities to view individual dwellings see five bars, cafes, and other businesses such as the blacksmith. There is even a church. A building with women’s clothing allowed visitors to try on a variety of hats. Many of the buildings exhibited tools; one had an impressive collection of saws. The second part of the Museum is a self-guided trail near some of the 3,000 mines starting with old Spanish diggings. A sign on Glory Hole indicated that by 1878 it had produced 200,000 ounces of silver. There were several buildings, too, ranging from a bunkhouse to the post office. The entire grounds have as a backdrop the distinctive Castle Dome peak. On our way to the museum we learned that it is adjacent to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge which preserves habitat for desert bighorn sheep. On our drive to Yuma, we also passed signs for the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground. We later learned that in 1943 experiments with portable bridges were carried out here. Since then it has been used to develop combat vehicles, aircraft, and weapons systems.

Quartermaster Depot

Quartermaster Depot

The Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park was a frontier Army depot that supplied all the forts of the Southwest from 1864-1883. This 10-acre park has some of Arizona’s oldest buildings. Yuma’s oldest home, constructed in 1859 by George Johnson, later became the Quartermaster’s personal residence. The house has been restored to its 1876 appearance with two-foot thick adobe walls, high ceilings, a central breezeway, and a detached kitchen – all efforts to reduce heat while providing a comfortable living space in the desert. The Corral House stored grain and tack for the mules and horses. A tall stone water reservoir supplied the Depot with a reliable source of water pumped from the Colorado River and using a gravity-fed system of underground pipes throughout the site. The Storehouse stored 6 months worth of supplies destined for military posts throughout the Southwest. Supplies from San Francisco arrived by steamboat until the introduction of railroads. Later the Storehouse was used by the Bureau of Reclamation from the 1930s to 1982 to tame the Colorado with dams that prevented floods, generated power, and ensured a source of water. A restored wooden Southern Pacific passenger coach car also sits on the grounds. This type of car was introduced in 1875. This particular car was converted for rail maintenance in 1913 and continued to be used until 1938.

According to the Yuma Arizona 2014/2015 Official Visitors Guide some 60,000 California-bound gold-seekers in 1849 used a rope ferry to cross the Colorado River near Yuma’s Main Street. On our visit this past Saturday we found Main Street closed off for the City of Yuma’s Military Appreciation Day. Military displays filled the street for about two or three blocks. We listened to some speakers including Miss Yuma and Miss San Luis, Mexico before driving to the nearby Gateway Park. We walked under the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge on some of the 7 miles of bike trail before finding a hiking trail along the Colorado River and through part of the 400 acres of restored wetlands. We saw stumps chewed by beavers and a beaver lodge.

Territorial Prison

Territorial Prison

On Saturday afternoon we visited the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park. The prison operated for 33 years from 1876 to 1909 during which time it held 3,069 prisoners including 29 women. As we explored the remains of a cellblock, audio recordings shared stories of some prisoners. Each cell held six prisoners with only a container for a toilet. Life must have been tough with only a bath once a week. Any rule breaker was placed in a “Dark Cell,” a dark cave-like room. Local citizens considered the jail a “country club” because it had electricity, forced ventilation, 2 bathtubs & 3 showers, a library with 2,000 books, and even a band. A reconstructed Guard Tower offered a commanding view of the surrounding area including the Yuma East Wetlands restoration project where we had walked earlier. Our visit coincided with the 17th Annual Gathering of the Gunfighters. Yuma’s DeGuello Gunslingers sponsor this event that brings together groups wearing period correct attire and firearms for 20 minute Old West vignettes.

The biggest surprise during our short visit to Yuma was discovering that it claims to be the “Winter Vegetable Capital of the World.” According to the Visitors Guide, sunshine, rich soil, and good water combine to produce more than 175 different crops, including 90% of the nation’s leafy greens from November through March. Yuma is well worth a visit.

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