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Yuma and the Spanish Crossing

The Spanish Route to California

The Spanish Crossing is a piece of Yuma history that started back to 1540. This is the year that the Spaniards discovered this natural crossing of the Colorado River.  This became part of the route to California.  They decided that it was a perfect place for settlements, and maintained a settlement at the crossing.

The Spaniards discovered two tribes of Native Americans named the Cocopah and the Quechuan. The Spanish explorers called these two tribes Yumas.  They derived the name from the Spanish word that means smoke. The first thing they could not miss was the smoke from cooking fires that they saw in the surrounding hills.  At first, the relationship was friendly.  Relations soured, and the locals soon revolted.  The Spanish settlers were driven out.

The name, Yumas, actually become more than just the name for the original area tribes. Yuma refers to both the city and the county where the crossing is located.  The city has become the premier city in southwestern Arizona.

Crossing for Riches and More

More than a hundred years after the Spanish colonization, this crossing still played a vital part in American history. It was a gateway to the “Wild West.” It was also a crossing point for a lot of immigrants and travelers on their way to California for other reasons than just gold.

In 1849, more than 60,000 travelers hoping to strike it rich passed through the crossing to get to California. This was during the gold rush. These people all passed through Yuma through a rope ferry that was operating from the riverbank which is now known as Main Street.

Crossroads Rich in  Culture

Yuma is also significant in the sense that it is the place where three major cultures meet. These are the Anglo-American, Native American and Hispanic-Latino. Evidence of these three different cultures is still seen in Yuma. It is seen through the architecture, art, food, music and a lot of other traditions that locals practice today.

Yuma is indeed rich in culture and history. The mode of transportation may have changed over time from ships, steamboats, and trains, but people of different cultures continued to cross the Colorado River through Yuma Crossing. Due to the fact that the area is along the US-Mexico border, a lot of immigrants still continue to enter the country through Yuma.

Historical Landmark Preserved

Yuma Crossing is still considered a heritage area. Ten years ago, it progressed from threatened to watch status. Thus, by 2004, the City of Yuma decided to adopt Historic Design Guidelines for the Yuma Crossing. Millions were invested to make sure the area was preserved and maintained.

Now, the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area includes the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, Yuma Territorial Prison, Fort Yuma and other sites that are related to the area’s history. The Yuma Heritage Area also started to restore the wetland and riparian habitat in the vicinity.

Yuma and the Spanish Crossing did play a big part in the nation’s history. Knowing the story also explains why Yuma is so rich in culture. Anyone traveling through the region can easily get a glimpse of how it was centuries ago. Fortunately, the restoration of habitats and establishment of wildlife refuges is also a good thing. Those who love the outdoors can take the hiking trails and see a wide variety of flora and fauna that can only be found in Yuma.