Sunday, December 6, 2015

West Wetlands Park, 12/03/2015

This is known locally as the best public park in Yuma and is on the Colorado River near the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. The West Wetlands Park is located on 110-acres of city-owned land that had been an unsightly landfill from 1910 to 1970. When the community became interested in cleaning up the area, the EPA advised that 6-8' of clean fill was needed to cover the entire area before the land could be used. Funding has been garnered from many sources (local, state, federal). The park opened in 2002 and improvement projects and maintenance efforts continue today.

One of the first projects at the park was the creation of the fishing pond. It is 15' deep and stocked. Visitors can fish for catfish, bluegill, carp, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and more, at the pond or the nearby Colorado River. 

Next to the pond is the smaller of the two playgrounds at the park. 

We continued on the nature trail to the Colorado River where there is a boat ramp. Next to it is Centennial Beach where folks go swimming and build sand castles during warm weather. 

Of course, our doggy, Sadie, had to go for a swim in the Colorado as soon as she saw the water.

We continued along the trail that runs next to the river. The Colorado used to be 300 yards wide here! Today it is only about 30' wide due to upstream dams that control and manage water distribution for residential, commercial, and irrigation uses. 

Invasive (non-native) plants (salt cedar tree, giant reed, Russian olive, and buffelgrass) have destroyed the natural habitat along the river. Large areas in the West Wetlands have been bulldozed in an attempt to get rid of these destructive plants. Ongoing maintenance is required to keep them at bay. Native plants (cattail, arrowweed, four-wing saltbush) and trees (cottonwood, goodings willow, honey and screw bean mesquites) have been planted and are starting to take hold in some areas. The new plants are protected by plastic pipes as seen in the photo below. About 30% of the 110 acres in the park have been restored to riparian habitat.


Don't miss the Burrowing Owl Habitat. The park has created 20 artificial burrows in a series of PVC pipe among sage bushes for the relocation of displaced owls. These are the only known owls that spend most of their time underground. They are active during the day (unlike most owls that are nocturnal). Normally they use abandoned squirrel, gopher, coyote, fox, etc., burrows but there are now so few here, that this project has brought the endangered owls back to the area.

The Hummingbird Garden was probably our favorite spot in this park. Shrubs, trees, perennials and cacti that attract these beautiful tiny birds have been planted in an area where benches have been placed for observation. We spent quite some time here watching the hummingbirds dart to and fro, alighting in the trees for just a few moments. 

We also saw several roadrunners here. 

The bird population in the park has doubled and the diversity of species is up 75%. It's a beautiful setting to sit quietly and observe them.  

The Stewart Vincent Wolfe Creative Playground was originally opened in 2007. Construction is currently underway for repairs caused by a fire in 2014 (so it is closed). Regardless, it is amazing!

The U.S. Army of the West - Mormon Battalion statue (9' tall) is located at the western end of the park. It was privately funded and honors the crossing of the Colorado River here and the contributions of military organizations that led to expansion of the west. During the Mexican-American War, 500+ members of the Church of Latter-day Saints enlisted and began their journey west in Council Bluffs, IA, in 1846. They were outfitted at Fort Leavenworth, KS, and journeyed 2,000 miles arriving in San Diego in 1847, suffering much hardship along the way. Of significance was the creation of a southern wagon route to California. Today Interstate 8 basically follows the route taken. 

Our last stop at the park was at the Yuma West Wetlands Solar Garden. Built in 2005, it has 24 tracking systems with 14 photovoltaic energy panels per. They are tilted at a 30 degree angle and move 2 degrees every 8 minutes to maximize their exposure to the sun. Both John and Sadie found it to be very interesting...

I know we will be visit this park again while we are in Yuma. It's a great place for a walk with our dog as well as a quiet, serene setting for bird-watching. 


  1. My goodness,that is a beautiful park..thank you!! I did not know about it!!
    Your photos are gorgeous too!!!

  2. Thanks for your comment. Be sure to check out the Hummingbird Garden if you visit. After we sat quietly for a while they were darting here, there and everywhere!