Colorado River State Historic Park – Former Military Depot Turned Museum

Yuma, Arizona.

Notice: This post is being written during the COVID-19 pandemic and at this time, the park is closed to visitors. Please stay safe and follow your state or country’s guidelines for travel in your region. More information on the park’s current status can be found here.

Where the Colorado River crosses from Arizona into California, Yuma became a crossing point into the Golden State, never more true than during the gold rush days starting in 1849. One year later, a military post was established at Yuma and by 1858, Yuma experienced a boom as gold strikes on the Colorado River started another gold rush. In 1864, the U.S. Army established a Quartermasters Depot on the site that is now the grounds of the State Park. Materials and goods were delivered from ocean-going vessels to the mouth of the Colorado River where they were carried by steamboat to the depot. From there, supplies were transported to serve fourteen military posts in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Southern Utah, and West Texas.

If you start to find out more information in Google, be careful you get the right park. There is the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park near Grand Junction, Colorado, and the Colorado Bend State Park at Bend, Texas. Adding to the confusion, the park near Yuma was once known as the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, and before that, the Yuma Crossing State Historic Park. History of the park, including a map of the grounds can be found at the link in the first paragraph.

The opening image features the Office of the Depot Quartermaster. The buildings are open for a walk-through and furnished appropriately. The building in the background is the Officer’s Quarters and Kitchen. The grounds are laid out much like a typical fort of those pioneer days. The only things missing are the battlements and stockade fence. Protected on three sides by the river and cliffs, it seems relatively secure considering its store of goods could be an attractive target for outlaws.

The Storehouse is a large warehouse type building that is now the heart of the museum. In the gallery of images below, you will see some of the items on display. An entire interior store room delves into the history of steamboat operations on the Colorado River.

The main exhibit hall of the Storehouse Museum features vehicles and equipment from early days of the depot. Of particular interest to me was in a small storeroom where miniature dioramas of the early days of Yuma are on display. A couple of those images are featured in the gallery below.

The block building in the image above doesn’t look like much, but it was busy from 1934-1964, operated by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The building housed a gauging station. Basically, pipes led from the river let water in the tower rise to the level of the river. Float gauges indicate the height of the river level. When it was in operation, a small bridge walkway led from the edge of the cliff to the doorway in the photograph. USGS workers could enter the building to read the gauges. The river’s highest recorded gauge height occurred before this gauge was constructed. In 1916, the river reached 34 feet (11 m). Today, the average height at the Yuma gauging station is less than 10 feet (3 m).

Since the state park is right on the Arizona/California border, the visitor center does double duty as an information center for travelers entering the state and for visitors to the State Historic Park. Given the current pandemic situation, I’m pretty sure that even this information center is closed to the public. I submit for your review, a gallery of images captured on our visit to the park in January, 2020. In most browsers, you can click on an image in the gallery to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

John Steiner

 

5 thoughts on “Colorado River State Historic Park – Former Military Depot Turned Museum

  1. great post for the pandemic so people can maybe plan to visit and have something to look forward to
    🙂
    and love those blue skies to go with the historical space

    • Thanks. Given the current situation, I’m prefacing my United States travel posts with notices about where to check to see if the attraction is open yet. It was a beautiful day with those beautiful Arizona blue skies.

      • I’ve got a few travel posts in the queue that auto-publish every Tuesday. I’ve started them all out with that caution. I’d love to be able to go in and edit them in a few weeks and pull the notice because they opened up again. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • that is a good idea to schedule – I really should have done that this last week because I wanted to join Su’s tea party and the lens artist for cropped – and had it all ready but ran out of time – ugh – but if I scheduled it – well there ya go – it is all set – so thanks for sharing that you do that –
        and same here – I hope that you can edit that part out soon as we all recover from this pandemic

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