Yuma, Arizona – WorldAtlas

Tucked away in a corner of the US state of Arizona is the town of Yuma. Located on the Colorado River near the US-Mexico border, Yuma has a long history associated with the Wild West period of the 19th century. Its proximity to the Colorado River makes it an important trading outpost. Later the city became an important center for agriculture. Today, Yuma is still famous for its agricultural products. Activities related to the US military have also boosted the city’s economy. Yuma is also famous for its climate. In fact, it has been labeled “the sunniest place on the planet” by the Guinness Book of Records.

Yuma geography

Arizona-California border at the Colorado River at Yuma.

The town of Yuma is located in the southwest corner of Arizona, near the border with the state of California and the border of the United States with Mexico. To the north and west of the city is the Colorado River, which runs almost parallel to part of the Arizona-California border and part of the US-Mexico border. Southwest of downtown Yuma is the small town of Somerton. Another small town, Fortuna Foothills, is located to the east. Several canals pass through the city of Yuma. The largest of these canals is the Main Canal, which crosses the city limits from north to south. According to the US Census Bureau, Yuma has a total area of ​​276 km².

Yuma population

Yuma has a population of 99,559. More than three-quarters of this population are white, of which 42.8% are Hispanic and 32.6% are non-Hispanic. Other Hispanics make up about 17% of Yuma’s population. African Americans make up 3.18% of the city’s residents, Asians 2.12%, and Native Americans 1.39%. Over 80% of Yuma’s residents were born in the United States, of which 40.58% were born in the city. Thus, the other fifth of the population was born abroad, mainly from Latin America. Just over half of Yuma’s residents speak only English, while 44.88% of the population speak Spanish.

Yuma economy

Sign welcoming visitors to Yuma
A sign welcoming visitors to Yuman. Editorial credit: Cheri Alguire / Shutterstock.com

The city of Yuma has had to contend with a high unemployment rate in recent years. In fact, in 2018, the Yuma Metropolitan Statistical Area had the highest unemployment rate in all of the United States at 20.9%. One of the reasons for this is that a large part of the workforce is employed in seasonal agricultural activities. This is because agriculture is extremely important in Yuma, as the city and surrounding area produces 90% of all leafy vegetables in the United States. Yuma is particularly adept at producing lettuce, which is why the city is nicknamed the “Winter Lettuce Capital of the World”. In 2019, Yuma’s largest employer was Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, which is one of several military bases in the area.

Yuma’s story

Yuma Arizona
The famous Yuma Lakes in Yuma, Arizona.

The original inhabitants of what is now Yuma were Native Americans from the Quechan and Cocopah nations. In 1540, the first Europeans in the form of Spanish explorers visited the region. After meeting the native inhabitants, the Spaniards called them Yumas, derived from the Spanish word “humo”, which means smoke. The term referred to the smoke from Native American cooking fires that filled the air. In the 1680s, another expedition led by Father Kino visited the region to convert its native inhabitants to Christianity.

It was not until 1774 that Yuma found himself on the map of the Spanish colony of New Spain. The Spaniards viewed Yuma’s so-called passage through the region as strategic in that it paved the way for the colonization of Alta (Upper) California. But a rebellion by the indigenous Quechan people against Spanish control ended the Spanish desire to control the region. In 1821, when Mexico gained independence from Spain, American mountaineers and explorers began to enter the Yuma region. In 1846, war broke out between the United States and Mexico, forcing the latter to cede all of California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, and parts of New Mexico and Colorado. to the Americans. In 1852, the US military established Fort Yuma on the north bank of the Gila River, which was part of the US-Mexico border after the war between the two countries. A year later, a settlement called Arizona City was established on the heights opposite the fort. In 1873, this colony was renamed Yuma.

At the turn of the century, Yuma had 1,800 inhabitants. In 1909, construction of the Laguna Dam, the first dam built on the Colorado River, was completed. This dam helped transform Yuma into an agricultural powerhouse. Three years later, a tunnel known as the Yuma Siphon was built, supplying the city with irrigation water. At the turn of the 20th century, Yuma became the site of many firsts in Arizona history. The first plane to land in the state landed at Yuma in 1911. The first highway bridge over the Colorado River, known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge, was opened in 1915. In 1929, the famous aviator, Amelia Earhart, took off from Yuma to compete in the inaugural Women’s Air Derby. The city’s population grew rapidly in the 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s. But since the last census in 2010, population growth in Yuma has slowed considerably.

Attractions in Yuma

Yuma has several attractions linked to its history, many of which are located in the historic downtown area of ​​the city. Perhaps the most popular of these is the Yuma Territorial Prison, which operated between 1876 and 1910. The prison grounds are now a state park, where people can learn about prison life at late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Other historic attractions in downtown Yuma include the Cloud Museum, Yuma Town Hall, the Casa de Coronado Museum, and the Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens. Visitors to Yuma can learn about the city’s military history at Colorado River State Historic Park, which is located on part of the former US Army Quartermaster Depot grounds.

Yuma, Arizona
Beautiful natural landscape around Yuma.

Yuma is also a great city for people looking for an outdoor adventure. Its proximity to the Colorado River makes it popular with boating, canoeing, kayaking, and other on-water enthusiasts. The city has three wildlife refuges and two wetlands. There is also a National Recreation Area known as Imperial Sand Dunes. Located just 20 miles west of Yuma, the Imperial Sand Dune region is a favorite with off-road enthusiasts. It has also served as the backdrop for several films, including Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, The Scorpion King and Jumanji 3.


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