10 Family Summer Destinations in Moab

Summer is here, and maybe it’s time to plan a trip to some of the wonders found in southeastern Utah.

Dead Horse Point State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Dead Horse Point State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So, in the interest of creating some indelible memories and introducing you to some wonderful landscapes and family adventures, Vogel Talks RVing has compiled this list of family-friendly destinations in Moab.

Moab’s easy access to Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Dead Horse Point State Park, the Colorado River, three scenic byways, and thousands of square miles of amazing red rock landscapes has made it one of the most sought-after destinations in the American Southwest.

The town

Moab is fun, has some good restaurants, a variety of camping options, and is close to countless natural wonders and fun family activities. And camping spots fill up quickly in the summer. Once you arrive in Moab, your first stop should be the Moab Information Center located at the corner of Main and Center Street.

Dead Horse Point State Park

This is one of the most photographed vistas in the world. The Colorado River never looked so good—except from maybe one of the Grand Canyon overlooks. The drive is less than an hour from Moab and you can easily tie in a visit to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands.

Canyonlands National Park - Island in the Sky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands – Island in the Sky

From Moab it takes around 40 minutes to drive to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands. At a minimum we’d suggest the very short hike to Mesa Arch and either the White Rim Overlook or the Grand View Point Overlook.

Canyonlands – the Needles

If your travels take you south of Moab, it is well worth the half-day side trip to drive out to Needles. On your way you’ll want to pull over at the petroglyph-filled Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument. Once in the park your kids will find the old cowboy camp at Cave Spring Trail and the ancestral Puebloan granary ruin fascinating.

La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Backway

The La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Backway features spectacular scenery ranging from the forested heights of the La Sal Mountains to expansive views of the red rock landscape below. This paved Scenic Backway begins on US-191, six miles south of Moab, and winds north over the La Sal Mountains through Castle Valley, ending at Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway (UT-128). Returning to Moab provides a 60 mile loop drive that requires approximately three hours to complete.

La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Backway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Backway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches – Visitor Center

The Arches Visitor Center is not large but does a great job of orienting you to what the park has to offer and how its attractions were formed. The knowledgeable rangers can help you create a custom plan based on your family’s ages, abilities, time available, and interests.

Arches – Windows section

The Windows section of Arches has some of the most accessible trails and sites for young hikers. On the short loop trail you’ll pass three different large arches: North and South Windows and Turret. Across the parking lot is Double Arch.
Arches – Campground trails

Approaching the Devils Garden trail at the end of the park road you’ll see trails heading off to Sand Dune Arch, Skyline Arch, and Broken Arch. These trails are very easy and short and offer some great areas in which to climb and play around.

Arches: Fiery Furnace tour

If we could do only one half-day trip in Arches, it would be a visit to the Fiery Furnace. Because of its maze-like structure and sensitive environment, first time Fiery Furnace visitors must accompany a ranger-guided tour. The three-mile round trip hike is fine for anyone older than four. This area’s beauty, variety, and complexity never ceases to amaze and inspire.

Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway (UT-279)

Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway (UT-279) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway (UT-279) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This Scenic Byway provides great views of the Colorado River, ancient rock art, and dinosaur tracks. A late afternoon start is rewarding as the sunset on the reddish-orange sandstone cliffs along the route is especially beautiful on the return drive to Moab.

This byway begins 4.1 miles north of Moab, where Potash Road (UT-279) turns off of Highway 191. After 2.7 miles Potash Road enters the deep gorge of the Colorado River. At the four mile point, look for rock climbers on the cliffs along the section of Potash Road, locally referred to as Wall Street.

Worth Pondering…

It’s a beautiful day for it.

—Wilbur Cross

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Follow Me To Yuma

As temperatures cool down, Yuma’s winter visitor season is heating up with residents of northern climates starting to head south ahead of freezing weather and snowstorms.

On the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona, Yuma's been at the crossroads for centuries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
On the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona, Yuma’s been at the crossroads for centuries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“There’s lots of rigs on the road,” reported Mike Green, owner of RV World, who recently drove back to Yuma from a trip to Oregon. He joked that he had a sign on the back of his truck saying “follow me to Yuma.”

They don’t need any such sign — they manage to find their way here just fine.

From various reports, they’ll be doing it in larger numbers this year than last year, when there were approximately 83,000 winter visitors during the peak of the season, reports the Yuma Sun.

That would be welcome news to proprietors of the recreational vehicle parks where many winter visitors set up housekeeping for the weeks and months they’re here. It’s also welcome news to the businesses that rely heavily on them to keep their annual profit margins in the black.

And it’s fun to have them back with their zest for living that means Yuma’s entertainment venues are picking up.

“We’ve had more calls this year than this time last year asking for relocation and tourist packages,” Ken Rosevear, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce told the Yuma Sun.

“I’m very excited about the prospects for this season. I’m optimistic about it based on the number of calls.”

He attributes the increased interest this year, for one thing, to lower gas prices that offer winter travelers more mobility.

The Territorial Prison, also known as "Hell Hole" and "Devil's Island" opened in the Arizona desert on July 1, 1876 when the first 7 inmates entered the prison and they were locked into the new cells they built themselves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Territorial Prison, also known as “Hell Hole” and “Devil’s Island” opened in the Arizona desert on July 1, 1876 when the first 7 inmates entered the prison and they were locked into the new cells they built themselves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It doesn’t hurt that Yuma has been enjoying a beautiful fall even as the Northwest is getting hammered with rain and snow.

“That gets people thinking about heading this way,” Rosevear said.

In fact, Yuma’s mild winter weather is the No. 1 enticement for northern residents who are seeking a respite from harsh winters at home.

In addition, the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar is almost on par with the U.S. dollar, with one Canadian dollar currently worth 96 cents in American money.

A large and growing percent of this area’s winter visitors are from Canada, Rosevear noted.

“We’re getting a lot of inquiries from Canada. They’re looking for information about RV parks and things to do here.”

Two things may help boost that population.

Four Canadian provinces have extended the length of time a resident can stay out of the province and continue to maintain Medical Services Plan coverage. This change includes British Columbia, where many of Yuma’s winter visitors hail from. As of January 1, British Columbia residents now can be out of Canada for up to seven months per calendar year for vacation purposes and still qualify for health care coverage, versus the previous limit of six months.

However, U.S. policy still limits them to 183 days in this country. That could change though.

In July the U.S. Senate passed a measure permitting Canadian visitors who meet certain criteria to stay in the U.S. for up to 240 days per calendar year. A similar measure is awaiting action by the House of Representatives.

In the meantime, new membership is at record highs for the Canadian Snowbird Association, Evan Rachkovskey, research officer for the organization told the Yuma Sun.

“That usually bodes well for wintering in the U.S.”

That trend can be seen at the 182-space Coach Stop RV Park in Wellton where co-owner Beth Deermer estimates that 45 percent of her park’s residents are Canadian and that’s been increasing.

“Anything that’s been sold goes to Canadians,” she said.

Deermer expects the rapidly approaching season to be a “normal year … full. We’re pretty much a full park.”

At Shangri-La RV Resort, reservations are “about average” for this time of year, reported staff member Palm Deleys. Meanwhile, residents are “starting to come in slowly but surely” and she expects most will have arrived by early November for a full park by Christmas.

Arizona has long been known for citrus and cotton–but the fertile lands surrounding Yuma at the Colorado River’s delta are lush and green all winter, serving as the nation’s salad bowl. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arizona has long been known for citrus and cotton–but the fertile lands surrounding Yuma at the Colorado River’s delta are lush and green all winter, serving as the nation’s salad bowl. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They come from all over the U.S. and Canada, she said. “They don’t like the cold and wet.”

Bonita Mesa manager Pat Chaboude reported that reservations are down a little so far, attributing it to people still firming up their plans.

“I don’t know what is going on in people’s lives,” she said. “All I can do is hope. Every year we count on it being a good year and be glad for what we get.”

Reservations also are a little slow at Westward Village, manager Carolee Bomboy told the Yuma Sun. But her regular residents are trickling in.

Based on the number of calls RV World has received from motor home owners who are booking advance service appointments, Green is optimistic this will be a good winter visitor season.

Perhaps, he speculated, “people are sick and tired of sitting around waiting for the economy to recover so they’re just doing it. They just want to get out.”

Worth Pondering…

I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.

—Ken Travous

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Arizona’s Big Hole

Camping inside of the park allows you to spend more time experiencing the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and less time driving back and forth.

Camping

The South Rim offers Mather Campground with no hook-ups and a 30-foot maximum RV length and Trailer Village with full hook-ups and a 50-foot-maximum RV length. Pictured above Trailer Village. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The South Rim offers Mather Campground with no hook-ups and a 30-foot maximum RV length and Trailer Village with full hook-ups and a 50-foot-maximum RV length. Pictured above Trailer Village. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each side of Grand Canyon features at least one RV campground situated within the park and other campgrounds found outside the entrances.

The Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of the magnificent Grand Canyon is the site of the most of the park’s services and activities. Camping in this area provides visitors with access to restaurants, showers, laundry facilities, an ATM and bank, a store, a post office, a medical clinic, visitors’ centers, a ranger office, a train depot, trailheads, observation areas, and park attractions.

You have a choice between staying in a campground with no hookups or a campground that offers full hookups.

The South Rim offers either Mather Campground with no hook-ups and a 30-foot maximum RV length or Trailer Village with full hook-ups and a 50-foot-maximum RV length. Both campgrounds are within the Grand Canyon Village, the location of most of the South Rim services, attractions, and activities.

Select Mather Campground if your RV is 30 feet or less, you want to camp in a tent, and you do not need any type of hookup. Mather Campground is open all year round, but accepts reservations for stays only from the beginning of March through the middle of November. Stays during the winter are on a first-come, first-served basis and arranged at a machine in the office.

From March 13 to October 18 the park operates a free shuttle bus system on the South Rim in Grand Canyon Village and along the West Rim Drive. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
From March 13 to October 18 the park operates a free shuttle bus system on the South Rim in Grand Canyon Village and along the West Rim Drive. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose Trailer Village if you need hookups or paved sites, or your RV is between 30 and 50 feet in length.

Desert View Campground—within the park, but 26 miles from the others—does not have hook-ups and limits RV lengths to 30 feet.

The North Rim Campground has no hook-ups or RV length limit and is the only campground in the park located on the North Rim.

Use the National Recreation Reservation Service (see link under Details) to make your reservations online up to 6 months in advance of your camping trip to the Grand Canyon. Group tent camping reservations are accepted up to a year in advance.

The South Rim is accessible off Interstate 40 from Flagstaff or Williams, Arizona. The North Rim is accessed through Utah from Route 389 or Highway 89.

The weather at the Grand Canyon fluctuates throughout the year. Summer can range from 80 degrees Fahrenheit at the top of the Rim to well over 100 degrees at the bottom and winter temperatures often fall below freezing.

DUDE

Grand Canyon Summed up in one word: DUDE

D: Desposition

U: Uplift

D: Down Cutting

E: Erosion

Details

Grand Canyon National Park

Location: South Rim is located 60 miles north of Williams (via route 64 from I-40) and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff (via route 180); North Rim is located 30 miles south of Jacob Lake (in northern Arizona on Highway 89A) on Highway 67 with the actual rim of the canyon an additional 14 miles south

Operating Hours: South Rim is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; North Rim is open mid-May to mid-October weather permitting

Entrance Fe: $25/vehicle (good for 7 days), all federal lands passes accepted

Weather: Summer temperatures on the South Rim are relatively pleasant (50°s-80°s F) but inner canyon temperatures are extreme; daytime highs at the river, 5000 feet below the rim, often exceed 100° F; North Rim summer temperatures are cooler that those on the South Rim due to the increased elevation

Pets: Must be physically restrained at all times; leashed pets are allowed on the rim trails but not below the rim, except certified service dogs

Camping: Mather Campground (over 300 sites), NO hookups, 30-foot RV maximum; Trailer Village, full hookups with 30/50 amp electric service, cable TV, 50-foot RV maximum; Desert View (50 sites), NO hookups, 30-foot RV maximum

Camping Fees: Mather Campground, $18; Trailer Village, $35; Desert View, $12

Grand Canyon National Park receives an average of 5 million visitors a year; this means the park is crowded most of the year. Expect heavy crowds during spring, summer, and fall months. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Grand Canyon National Park receives an average of 5 million visitors a year; this means the park is crowded most of the year. Expect heavy crowds during spring, summer, and fall months. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping Reservations: Reservations for Mather Campground and Trailer Village may be made through the National Recreation Reservation Service by calling (877) 444-6777 or online at recreation.gov; NO reservations accepted for Desert View

Address: P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

General Visitor Information: (928) 638-7888

Website: nps.gov/grca

Note: Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it’s still current before making your travel plans.

Did You Know?

The Colorado River is 1,450-miles long from its source in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Gulf of California, south of Yuma, Arizona.

Please Note: This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on the Grand Canyon National Park

Part 1: The Magnificent Grand Canyon

Part 2: Lure of the Grand Canyon

Worth Pondering…

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
—George Will

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Lure of the Grand Canyon

No one knows for sure how the Grand Canyon came to be.

The Grand Canyon has been touted as the Eighth Wonder of the World ever since John Wesley Powell braved the raging whitewater in its depths in 1869. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Grand Canyon has been touted as the Eighth Wonder of the World ever since John Wesley Powell braved the raging whitewater in its depths in 1869. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Much of it was formed from rocks nearly two billion years old, and it was once a seabed. Seismic shifts and wind and water erosion continue to create a kind of living work of art. At the centre of it all is the Colorado River, which threads its way through 277 river miles of the canyon, from west to east.

Grand Canyon National Park encompasses 1,218,375 acres and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. The land is semi-arid and consists of raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwestern United States.

Drainage systems have cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins.

Well known for its geologic significance, the Grand Canyon is one of the most studied geologic landscapes in the world. It offers an excellent record of three of the four eras of geological time, a rich and diverse fossil record, a vast array of geologic features and rock types, and numerous caves containing extensive and significant geological, paleontological, archeological, and biological resources.

The Grand Canyon is considered one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion in the world. The Canyon, incised by the Colorado River, is immense, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles. It is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 15 miles at its widest.

However, the significance of Grand Canyon is not limited to its geology.

When hiking along one of the canyon’s rims, look down and try to spot the tiny ribbon below. That’s the Colorado River.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
When hiking along one of the canyon’s rims, look down and try to spot the tiny ribbon below. That’s the Colorado River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Park contains several major ecosystems. Its great biological diversity can be attributed to the presence of five of the seven life zones and three of the four desert types in North America. The five life zones represented are the Lower Sonoran, Upper Sonoran, Transition, Canadian, and Hudsonian. This is equivalent to traveling from Mexico to Canada.

The Park also serves as an ecological refuge, with relatively undisturbed remnants of dwindling ecosystems—such as boreal forest and desert riparian communities. It is home to numerous rare, endemic (found only at Grand Canyon), and specially protected (threatened/endangered) plant and animal species. Over 1,500 plant, 355 bird, 89 mammalian, 47 reptile, 9 amphibian, and 17 fish species are found in the park.

It’s believed that the first human visitors to the Grand Canyon were Native Americans who hunted here some 4,000 years ago. Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century; American fur trappers followed in the late-1820s.

During his exploration of the Colorado River in 1869, the first successful expedition to travel the length of the river, John Wesley Powell noted in his journal, “The glories and the beauties of form, color, and sound unite in the Grand Canyon—forms unrivaled even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets, and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain.”

This perhaps explains why the Grand Canyon was named a World Heritage Site in 1979.

After 1880, prospectors came to the canyon in search of copper, silver, and asbestos.

Tourism took off in 1901, once the railroad reached the canyon’s South Rim.

In 1919, the Grand Canyon was declared a national park. Today, it gets up to 5 million visitors annually.

Photo Tips

The Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world, lives up to its reputation in every way. There’s no shortage of photographic experiences in the Grand Canyon either. A photo-taker could spend days in one single spot and never get the same image twice. Wake up early to see the brilliant sunrises or stay late for sunset and watch as the canyon change colors. Stop at all the scenic overlooks as you drive or ride the tram from one end of the park to the other. Be sure to find a hike that is comfortable for you to really get into the depths of the canyon.

Water and wind erode the rock and sweep it away. It’s hard to imagine that the river was once on top. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Water and wind erode the rock and sweep it away. It’s hard to imagine that the river was once on top. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a classic shot of a Grand Canyon sunrise or sunset, head to the Hopi or Mohave overlooks along West Rim Drive on the South Rim. Remember to go early to give yourself plenty of time to find the right spot and set up.

DUDE

Grand Canyon Summed up in one word:

DUDE

D: Desposition

U: Uplift

D: Down Cutting

E: Erosion

Did You Know?

President Theodore Roosevelt said of Grand Canyon, “Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American should see.”

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on the Grand Canyon National Park

Part 1: The Magnificent Grand Canyon

Part 3: Arizona’s Big Hole

Worth Pondering…

We sat at this point and let our eyes wonder across the canyon. All worries seeped away into the stony stillness and there was silence.

—Gena McCaffert

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The Magnificent Grand Canyon

The scale of Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona strains the vocabulary.

The sights at the Grand Canyon are unlike anywhere else in the world! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The sights at the Grand Canyon are unlike anywhere else in the world! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size.

It’s slightly ironic that the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were all man-made objects, as if Gaia the earth mother, in all her glory, was seemingly incapable of providing wonders as stunning as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or the Colossus of Rhodes.

The Grand Canyon is a natural wonder which was geological eons in the making.

Grand Canyon National Park is located in the northwest corner of Arizona, close to the borders of Utah and Nevada. The Colorado River, which flows through the canyon, drains water from seven states, but the feature we know as Grand Canyon is entirely in Arizona.

The Grand Canyon is probably the best known national park in the U.S., if not the world. Grand doesn’t really even begin to describe it. The park includes more than a million acres of land.

Unique combinations of geologic color and erosion decorate the canyon that travels 277 river miles from Lees Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep.

The Grand Canyon has two very different personalities.

Scenery, climate, and vegetation are noticeably different between north and south rims due to differences in elevation. It is almost like having two parks in one and it takes time, planning, and effort to be able to visit both sides of the Canyon in a single trip.

The North Rim, which at about 8,000 feet above sea level, cuts across the horizon 1,000 feet higher than the South.

The awe-inspiring feeling that you get when you stand at the rim and look out across the grandest canyon in the world is unrivaled! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The awe-inspiring feeling that you get when you stand at the rim and look out across the grandest canyon in the world is unrivaled! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And in between are countless side canyons, buttes, and temples with more than one billion years of geology on display.

Nearly five million people see the one-mile-deep Grand Canyon each year.

An overwhelming percentage of the visitors to Grand Canyon National Park visit the South Rim which is open all year. Most of them see it from their vehicle at overlooks along the South Rim—Grand Canyon Village, Hermits Rest, and Desert View.

In a well–known film lampoon of the family vacation, Chevy Chase stands at the edge of the Grand Canyon, nods his head in approval, and leaves. Visitors in real life tend to linger a bit longer—but not much. Too many come and go without wandering more than 100 feet from their vehicle.

At a chasm a mile deep and 277 miles long, the average stay is less than a day.

The best way to take in the views is to walk. The 12-mile Rim Trail stretches from Pipe Creek Vista west to Hermits Rest and is accessible from many overlooks and the campgrounds in the park. Most of the trail is paved and most of it is flat, something to be grateful for at 7,000 feet. Take time to take in at least a portion of the trail.

The South Rim is located at seven thousand feet above sea level. This means there is snow in winter and there are cool nights in the summer. But, summer temperatures at the bottom of the canyon, along the Colorado River, can reach 120 degrees.

A much smaller number of people view the Canyon from the North Rim, which lies just 10 miles (as the condor flies) directly across the Canyon from the South Rim. The North Rim rises a thousand feet higher than the South Rim, and is much less accessible.

Heavy snows close the road to the North Rim from late October to mid May each year. Even in good weather it’s harder to reach. It is a five-hour drive of 215 miles by vehicle from the South Rim, or 21 miles by foot across the Canyon by way of the North and South Kaibab Trails.

Hiking the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is a wonderful way to experience some of the Canyon’s rich natural beauty and immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is a wonderful way to experience some of the Canyon’s rich natural beauty and immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Inner Canyon includes everything below the rim and is seen mainly by hikers, mule riders, or river runners. There are many opportunities here for adventurous and hardy persons who want to backpack, ride a mule to Phantom Ranch, or take a river trip through the Canyon on the Colorado River which can take anywhere from a few days to three weeks—there are no one-day river trips through Grand Canyon.

DUDE

Grand Canyon Summed up in one word: DUDE

D: Desposition

U: Uplift

D: Down Cutting

E: Erosion

Did You Know?

The Grand Canyon is considered one of the natural wonders of the world largely because of its natural features. The exposed geologic strata, layer upon layer, rise over a mile above the river, representing one of the most complete records of geological history that can be seen anywhere in the world.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on the Grand Canyon National Park

Part 2: Lure of the Grand Canyon

Part 3: Arizona’s Big Hole

Worth Pondering…

The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.

—Major John Wesley Powell, Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons

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Yuma Named Sunniest Place in America

The sun is out and the weather is great, just like any other day in Yuma, Arizona.

The Territorial Prison, also known as "Hell Hole" and "Devil's Island" opened in the Arizona desert on July 1, 1876 when the first 7 inmates entered the prison and they were locked into the new cells they built themselves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It should not surprise anyone that US News and World Report again named Yuma as the number one “sunniest place” in America to spend their golden years.

Yuma’s wonderfully temperate winter climate also makes this southeastern Arizona city a popular destination for snowbirds escaping their cold winter homes.

Arizona’s warmest winter city and the sunniest year-round spot in the U.S., Yuma has an annual average of 4,133 hours of sunshine. Yuma has a classic low desert climate with extremely low relative humidity and very high summer temperatures.

Located at the confluence of the Gila and Colorado rivers, Yuma began as a natural crossing of the then-wide and wild Colorado River.

In 1540, Hernando de Alarcon became the first non-native to explore the area, which was inhabited by the Yuma people, a combination of lower Colorado tribes including Quechans, Cocopahs, and Mohaves; and in the 1700s, Father Eusebio Kino passed through.

On the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona, Yuma's been at the crossroads for centuries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it wasn’t just Jesuits and Native Americans. In 1850, an estimated 60,000 people traveled through on their way to California and the Gold Rush. The town was first known as Colorado City, then Arizona City, before Fort Yuma was established in 1849. In 1853, the area joined the United States as part of the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico. The territorial government named the town Yuma in 1873. It is now the largest city in Arizona outside the metro areas of Phoenix and Tucson.

Yuma is the county seat and largest city of Yuma County, one of Arizona’s original eight counties. It is the 11th largest city in the state, with an estimated population (2010 Census) of 93,064, up 16.7 percent from the 2000 count of 77,515.

With the arrival of sun-seeking snowbirds, the population nearly doubles during the peak travel months of January, February, and March.

During the 1870s, Phoenix was little more than a slow place on the Salt River. The Arizona Territory was dominated by Tucson in the south, Prescott in the north, and Yuma in the west. Yuma had the political clout, so when the territorial Legislature voted to build a prison in backwater Phoenix, Yuma lawmakers scratched out the name Phoenix on the bill and inserted their town’s name. The deed was done.

The hulking Territorial Prison, which is still a major Yuma tourist attraction, opened in 1876 and quickly filled to capacity but continued to hold outlaws until a bigger big house was built in Florence in 1909.

Arizona has long been known for citrus and cotton–but the fertile lands surrounding Yuma at the Colorado River’s delta are lush and green all winter, serving as the nation’s salad bowl. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1877, the railroad bridge over the Colorado was completed, from granite knob to granite knob. The transcontinental railroad still crosses at the spot.

In 1915, the first automobile bridge was completed and opened up the cross-country road system for the first time. The bridge, still called the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge, parallels the railroad bridge right by the old prison.

The National Park Service declared the downtown Yuma area a National Heritage Area in 2000.

Farming, cattle, tourism, and two military bases are Yuma’s main industries.

The Yuma valley has some of the most fertile soils in the world, having received silt and mineral deposits from the Colorado and Gila River floods until the rivers were tamed by an intricate series of dams and canals.

Yuma is a major growing region for lettuce, dates, broccoli, cabbage, and agricultural seeds. It’s also the home of Arizona Western College.

Some of the major attractions around the Yuma area include the historical Territorial Prison, the Yuma Crossing Historic Park, the Kofa Mountain Range and Wildlife Refuge, and Martinez and Mittry Lakes.

Details

Yuma

Visitor Information Center: 201 N. 4th Avenue (Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park), Yuma, AZ 85364

Phone: (928) 783-0071 or (800) 293-0071

Website: visityuma.com

2012 Winter Events & Festivals

January 14-15: Gathering of the Gunfighters

January 28: Civil War Days

February 3: Yuma River Daze

March 10: 14th Annual Yuma Lettuce Days

March 17: 50th Annual MCAS Yuma Air Show & Open House

Worth Pondering…
Yuma, Arizona: Rated as having the best weather in the United States.

—Farmer’s Almanac

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