Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Yuma East Wetlands, 11/24/2015

Today we stopped at the Yuma Visitor Center to pick up some information on sights of interest in the area. In almost every city we visit, I have found these places to be staffed with very well-informed and helpful people. This place was not exception. We picked up a booklet on hiking trails in the area ($6) and got directions to the Yuma East Wetlands (YEW) project.

YEW can be accessed from the Yuma Territorial Prison Historical State Park or through Gateway Park. We drove to the parking lot in Gateway Park located at the end of Madison Avenue in Historic Downtown Yuma under the I-8 Interstate bridge.

The historic Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge crosses the Colorado River just a short distance from the I-8 bridge. The truss bridge was built in 1915 and was the only vehicular traffic bridge over the lower Colorado River for 1,200 miles. It is a 336' span and cost $74,000 to build. There was great ceremony and celebration when it opened. Previously, travelers had to take the ferry to cross the river.

In 1978 the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It was closed to vehicular traffic in 1988 but re-opened after renovations in 2001. The Old Spanish Trail Highway ran from St. Augustine, FL, to San Diego, CA, and crossed over this bridge.

There are picnic shelters, ramadas, playgrounds, and walkways along the river in Gateway Park. 

We followed the trail along the Colorado River to the Yuma East Wetlands. 

The lower Colorado River used to support 450,000+ acres of native forests and wetlands. Only about 1,000 acres remained by 1986 due to the building of dams along the mighty Colorado River. Flooding has been controlled and water is being supplied to 7 states, but the environmental impact has been too great. The YEW project is a pioneering restoration project led by the Quechan Indian Tribe and the City of Yuma. 

There is a 3-mile nature trail that runs along the river and loops through the restoration area of growing forests and wetlands. 

The restoration project was initiated in 2004 and 350 acres have been restored thus far (of the 1,400 acres in the YEW). As the wetlands grow, the variety and density of wildlife has increased as well. We saw many birds, butterflies, and evidence of beavers (i.e., trees that beavers have gnawed and several beaver dams, but, unfortunately, no beaver sightings!)

The Herb Guenther Scenic Overlook is a short spur off of the primary trail and affords a great view of the river. Of course, Sadie, had to take a quick swim in the river.

The wetlands restoration has involved the removal of non-native invasive plants, replanting of trees (cottonwoods, willow, mesquites, and palo verde) as well as irrigation piping throughout.

We all really enjoyed our visit to this place. There is a West Wetlands area that we may check out while we are in the area. 

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