I was spending a bit of time mooch docking at Larry’s place, in a suburb of Yuma called Fortuna Foothills. While I have been in the Yuma area previously, my experience consisted mostly of stocking up at the local Walmart and driving through Yuma on Interstate 8. This time, I was staying for a while, to deal with some little RV fixes, visit with Larry, and see the sites around Yuma.
According to Wikipedia, Yuma is one of the sunniest places in the world. I don’t know about that, I saw my fair share of cloud while I was there. Perhaps I just hit it during a particularly cloudy period. It even rained while I was there!
At any rate, my trip with Larry showing a bit of the city started out dull and gloomy. Perhaps it was the perfect mood to go to prison, the Yuma Territorial Prison in this case. The gloom was not great for photos, so I was glad that the skies opened up into some late day sun for better photos.
The main prison area is a pretty good size – we are not talking Alcatraz here, but there is a fair bit to explore. You have a main building you enter that has a bunch of displays and a theatre, then you head outside to the main cell bloc. You might think it was cruel to house prisoners in cells not protected from the elements but remember, this prison was built in 1876, and we are talking desert heat. The heat is a way bigger factor and I’m sure the fact that the cells go straight through to an inside passage for wind flow was much appreciated as shade and wind were the only things to really cool you in those days.
If you were a problem prisoner, you might get thrown in “The Dark Cell”, a little cavern carved out of the rock at the far end of the prison. The bottom of the cage lattice was still in there, the prisoner(s) would have been in here to keep them separate from the guards coming in. You had a little hole for light from the top, that’s about it. About the only good thing would be the coolness inside compared to the desert heat in the summer. At any rate, the primitive conditions are not really that much different from today’s solitary confinement.
Yuma Territorial Prison happens to be beside the Colorado river where it narrows for easy bridge crossings. The Ocean to Ocean highway bridge, the railroad and the Interstate 8 all take advantage of this narrowing to cross here. In a little geopolitical border quirk, I am looking across the Colorado River to Arizona here, so Arizona has a little bit of the west bank of the Colorado River only in this 4 mile stretch of river. The border does not deviate from the river until Grand Canyon a couple of hundred miles north of here.
Now as to why the border was decided this way, 12MC has a full explanation. I’ll give you the Coles notes version: Evidently, California and Arizona have had a dispute about the border as recently as 1963, owing to the shifting Colorado river moving from the previously agreed upon border. It’s very annoying when the river cuts you off from the State you are supposed to be in! The border jogs away from the river, giving Arizona a little slice of the west side of the river bank in order to compensate Arizona for bits of land lost to the shifting river over time. But since both sides agree that the original channel surveyed is lost to time, the reality is that this border is what both sides decided was fair and practical to administrate. As the Colorado River is ‘dammed’ to the point of barely existing at this border anomaly, the channel is easy to control these days to keep the pesky river from moving off the current border too much where it follows the State border lines.
The Mexicans take this remaining bit of Colorado River for their water needs as soon as the river arrives at its border. So if you look at the map along the Mexico and the USA border south of Yuma, you’ll see a meandering border that traces what was the center of the Colorado River at the time it was set many moons ago. There is no river left, the last channel carved by a pulse of water that might be let out once in a while is all you can follow of the current river channel.
In other educational visits, I visited the Yuma Conservation Garden (YCG) a couple of times. The gardens are not so big that you need a couple of visits to see everything, rather the light was very grey and overcast again so I returned on a sunny day to properly capture the place. But I kept my blah picture for comparison should I ever get to my big Camera vs camera blog (why it doesn’t matter) article.
The gardens a composed of two subjects: desert plants and old farm machinery. The machinery is interesting to look at, but could use some signage explaining what the machine is for. But I could see the park has not had money for a lot of new signs; what was there was old and worn.
The gardens try to mimic the look of the Arizona desert for the most part. They also rescue a lot of plants that may be taken out by new development. In fact, the staff told me that a bunch of Ocotillo plants they are establishing near the entrance were donated by Yuma Proving Grounds, or YPG as everyone calls it down here. If you want to see most of the different plant life in the Arizona desert, this is a one stop shop for it. There were several plants there that I have not encountered yet.
The developed front portion of the gardens are nice, but you wander to the backside and get the feeling that they are not finished building here yet, despite the fact that the gardens have been around since 1989. Now, perhaps I hit the backside ‘under renovation’ but if it was me, I’d screen fence off that little bit to make the rest of the gardens look more completed.
The rest of the gardens look good, with lots of interesting cacti and desert succulents. There are a few labels around, but more would be great to tell me what I was looking at at times. At least having been down in the desert a while now, I knew what a few of the plants were. Some might complain about the sparse plant coverage, but that is realistic for what is supposed to be mimic of a real desert. Plants there are spread out as there is only so much water to go around.
The ‘desert oasis’ pond started out as a duck pond that existed prior to the YCG’s start. It was a good chance to try out the Kodak Pixpro camera Larry loaned me. This thing has a crazy long zoom lens, out past 1000mm. You’d think I’d be able to get head shots of birds far away with this thing, but the reality is you can’t hand hold such a long lens very well, and track little far way objects.
Reviewing my good shots from the camera, I got most of them at less than 80mm, including the duck shots. Crazy zoom length is just another marketing gimmick to get you to buy a camera with you thinking you will be the next National Geographic pro photographing lions from a mile away. That being said, this camera will take perfectly fine photos – it is just slower, misses focus more and has tad less resolution at 16MP. The mega pixels matters least – I missed more pictures because the autofocus failed me. But this discussion is more for a camera vs camera blog I might write someday, so moving on!
I am being a bit harsh on YPG, the place is free to visit after all! I made sure to put some money in their donation box, hopefully someday there is enough in the kitty for some signs and a finish to the backside of the place. All in all, this is worth a visit, especially if you don’t have time to go out in the desert and see the real plants there. Real desert is mostly creosote bush anyways, you need to hunt for the more interesting bits!
I am not finished with Yuma yet! Join me next time when I talk about some food I ate, and some of the suburban quirks of this area. Plus I fix things. See you at the right arrow link!