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After visiting Yuma, Arizona, the 1969 song Teach Your Children by Graham Nash resonates in my head. I have an earworm associated with the place; that is a tune stuck in your head. There is lots to teach your children in Yuma.
Yuma is a place to go that is both fun for kids and educational. It is easy to miss the rafting and tubing fun on the Colorado River when on Interstate 8. Great effort was done here to create parks alongside the river and educational walking trails through the wetlands. At the least, consider stopping to see the nature trail and enjoy seeing people having fun on the banks alongside the waters of the river.
So, what is educational? Water is a topic for everyone due to the current drought. Mark Twain is attributed to the quote, “Whiskey is for drinking; Water is for fighting over.”
Interest your young charges in engineering on a grand scale here in Yuma. The Yuma Siphon project of 1912 was civil engineering at its peak and developed the infrastructure that feeds us today.
About 95% of winter lettuce and vegetables served in the USA comes out of the Yuma Valley area farms. Growing food here needs water from the Colorado River and distribution to the farms in an efficient process.
The people in the old photos dug a huge tunnel, down over 85 feet and nearly 1,000 feet in length, under the Colorado River to siphon water from the river to create a predictable supply of irrigation water. Kids will soon tire of photos and diagrams, so take them to see the boiling-like turbulence of water flowing up the siphon and into the canal.
Here is a great video on Yuma history and the Yuma Project that built the huge siphon. It shows the Old West with Yuma being the crossing point for the Colorado River, and the Yuma Valley as an agricultural resource for the nation.
Kids are fascinated by the macabre. Yuma Territorial Prison, famous in Old West tales, has cellblocks to enter and close the old iron door for photos. In the prison museum are the stories of criminals and events inside the walls, making it hard to imagine life there in the heat and amongst the inmates.
Speaking of criminals, the Yuma High School got its mascot name, Criminals, due to holding classes at the prison when the prison closed in 1910. Founded in 1909, the high school lacked a suitable facility. Class was held in the cellblocks and assemblies in the large prison hospital. Buy your kids an official Yuma Criminals shirt while in Yuma.
Old West lifestyle experience at the U.S. Army Yuma Quartermaster Depot displays the military supply system with original buildings from the 1870’s. This depot kept the troops on horseback, out in the remote forts, patrolling and engaging in the Indian Wars of the period.
Today, many families use Yuma as the lodging base camp for doing all terrain vehicle fun at the nearby sand dune erg, the Algodones Dunes. Parts of these dunes is known as the Imperial Sand Dunes, managed by the US Bureau of Reclamation.
Where to Stay and Dine in Yuma
Even the lodging has educational value in Yuma. Coronado Motor Hotel, a Best Western hotel, offers attractive rates and spacious, clean rooms. On the grounds is the original hotel offices, dating from nearly a century ago, and all the artifacts on display of the passing eras in American motor-lodging. It was hair-raising to see the portable Jacuzzi given to guests, along with a instructions to first attach the grounding clamp to the pipe before submerging yourself in the bath with the device. Hair raising, indeed, should one forget this grounding step.
Yuma Landing, a restaurant and bar next door to the Coronado, offers American comfort food of excellent quality and affordable family pricing. The bar displays a history of aviation in Yuma, starting with the first airplane to land in Arizona, a Wright Brothers flyer, in 1911.
Adult fun is at the nearby Quechan Casino and include fine dining at the Ironwood Steakhouse. Beyond gambling, there are Quechan Indians cultural displays that includes art and history.
Downtown Yuma pedestrian mall area has multiple dining areas, shopping, and community art projects. It will be easy to spend several hours here for strolling around before lunch.
Overall, this visit to Yuma exceeded all of my expectations. Before, when I was in Yuma on business, the trip was rushed and focused on tasks. Just like the traffic on the interstate through Yuma, I blew in and out, and then rushed back home. If I had taken the few minutes to ask someone, like the Yuma Visitor Bureau, then my visits to Yuma would certainly rank among the best trips in my memories.