Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Yuma Quartermaster Depot, 12/12/2015

After visiting the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, we were interested in seeing the Yuma Quartermaster Depot (also a State Historic Park) that is located nearby.  The Visitor Center is the entrance to the park but is also Yuma's overall Visitor Information Center. 

A map near the parking lot provides a map of the entire Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area

The folks that work here are very knowledgeable about Yuma and the surrounding area. Brochures, maps, and magazines of sites of interest, local businesses, RV parks, nearby national wildlife refuges, etc., can be found here. There is a small gift shop in one section of the Visitor Center and exhibits about the Yuma Quartermaster Depot.

There is also an exhibit entitled "Where Does the Water Go" in reference to the Colorado River.

A brochure is provided when you pay the $4 entrance fee (we purchased an Arizona State Park Pass earlier this year that covered the admission price) that has a map of the six buildings at the Depot.  

Corral House. This building was used to store grain and tack for the horses and mules that were quartered in the 10-foot-tall adobe corral at the end. The corral has since been dismantled only four rooms of the structure are original. When the Bureau of Reclamation began using the building in the early 1900s, additional rooms were added. Today the lovely Back in Time Pie Shoppe can be found in the Corral House. The fresh-baked pies smell divine.

The Back in Time Gift Shop is accessed from the pie shop through an old bank vault door. The original wall is exposed in a small section here.

In the rooms built by the Bureau of Reclamation is a display on the Yuma Siphon and Yuma East Wetlands restoration. 

The Colorado River is the most controlled river in the world. Seven dams in Arizona alone were built between 1909 and 1968 to control flooding, create municipal water supplies, generate hydroelectricity, and provide irrigation (especially in the Yuma area). They are:
  • 1909 - Laguna Dam was the first dam on the Colorado River and ended steamboat traffic. It was superseded by the Imperial Dam (built in 1938).
  • 1936 - Hoover Dam built to control flooding and generate hydroelectric power; created Lake Mead (reservoir and recreational area).
  • 1938 - Parker Dam provides water and power to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, and Tucson and is the deepest dam in the world; created Lake Havasu.
  • 1938 - Imperial Dam diverts river for irrigation of 600,000 acres of farmlands; created Imperial Reservoir.
  • 1950 - Moreles Dam is Mexico's only dam on the river is provides irrigation and drinking water to Mexicali Valley.
  • 1951 - Davis Dam regulates water delivery to Mexico and provides power to CA, NV, and AZ; created Lake Mohave.
  • 1968 - Glen Canyon Dam generates electricity and created Lake Powell for water storage (and recreational area). This is the last dam built on the river.
Due to the location of the Laguna Dam on the Colorado River, a canal needed to be built to bring water to the fertile land in the Yuma Valley. To accomplish this, a u-shaped tunnel formed by 3 circular, concrete shafts (a vertical California shaft, a vertical Arizona shaft, and a horizontal shaft) was completed in 1912. The horizontal tunnel is 1,000' long and 90' below the river. At the time it was recognized as an engineering marvel. 

While the dams fueled the growth and development of the Southwest, it had a detrimental impact on the ecology along the river. In Yuma, the East and West Wetlands projects are efforts to restore the original habitats. 

Quartermaster's House and Kitchen. This house was originally built by George Johnson, a steamboat entrepreneur, in 1859 as his residence and subsequently became part of the Quartermaster Depot. Restored to its original 1876 appearance, it is the oldest Anglo-built adobe building in Arizona. 

There are four rooms off of a large hallway that runs from the front to the rear of the house. Master Bedroom and Child's Bedroom.

Parlor and Dining Room

In a separate building next to the house is the kitchen, laundry, and servant's quarters. 

Water Reservoir. This structure provided water to the site using a gravity-fed system of underground pies. The pump house is no longer in existence, but below is a photo of the a part of the large steam boiler that drew water from the Colorado River to the reservoir. 

Quartermaster's Office. This building provided office space for the Quartermaster who was responsible for managing the huge inventory of supplies. Below is the original desk used by the Quartermaster in the 1870s and a display of military uniforms of the era. 

There is also an exhibit about the Yuma Proving Grounds here. 

Storehouse. Arriving by steamboat up the Colorado River, supplies (6 months' worth) were stored in this building. The supplies were subsequently delivered to military posts in the Arizona Territory and beyond. Check out the huge (authentic) Mojave Steamboat pilot house wheel. The lower portion of the wheel was below the floor to enable the captain to better handle it.

Several antique wagons, fire equipment, and vehicles are on display in the storehouse today.  

Belly dump wagon (c 1885) and dump wagon (c 1900). The second photo is of a replica of a 1948 wagon of the Mormon Battalion and an Army Escort wagon used to deliver supplies to military posts. 

When the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway and bridge were completed in 1915, a solution was needed to enable automobiles to travel the 40-mile stretch of sand west of Yuma. A plank road was built in 1915 and then replaced in 1916. In 1926, a two-lane paved highway replaced it. A portion of the road can be seen here under the Model T car.

This wooden railroad coach (c 1875) by Southern Pacific Railroad in Sacramento, CA. The car was converted into a railroad maintenance car and was not retired until 1938.  

If you enjoy learning about our country's history, you find this an interesting visit. The influence the Colorado River has had on the American Southwest is amazing. We have visited many of the dams along the river and enjoyed learning more about them here. For additional information about the park, check out their website.

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