Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yuma, Arizona--A Special Place for a Special Reason

Have you ever been on a trip and either drove through a town, or stopped at a town and wondered to yourself, “why did people settle here”?  I ask myself that question a lot.  Sometimes a place is so beautiful in terms of obvious natural beauty that the answer is self-evident.  But what about those places where the answer is less obvious?

A recent example of this for me was Yuma, Arizona.  Yuma is tucked tight against the Arizona/Mexico border and is connected east and west by Interstate 8.  I’ve passed through Yuma several times, even stopped for gas, and have wondered, “why here”?   

I had an opportunity to address this question a month or so ago when I went to Yuma to visit for the first time.  One of my sons recently took a position there as an elementary school teacher, and this was my first chance to visit him there.

I knew I would take photographs on the trip so as I do with most of my photo shoots, I did some pre-planning; reviewing the “things to do” lists featured on tourist sites as well as researching this history of Yuma.  It is in this research that one learns why this seemingly desolate spot in the middle of an otherwise desolate desert would be chosen as a place to settle.

Early settlers traveling west had many barriers and obstacles to their journey, one of which was the Colorado River.  It turns out that Yuma was the only practical crossing point on the lower Colorado River and because of that, assured its importance as a transportation hub going back as far as records have been kept.  Some cities are formed because of their natural resources, but Yuma was established because of its critical and strategic location.  This aspect of Yuma’s significance, along with my Civil Engineering interesting in structures, and bridges in particular, drove my interest to photograph the railroad bridge.

The Southern Pacific was the first locomotive to cross the Colorado, on Sunday, September 30, 1877.  The railroad crossed the Colorado at Madison Street and was actually the third constructed at this site. The previous two, wooden framed and including a swing span near the Arizona shore to accommodate the steamboats of the day, were washed out in floods. Today little remains at this site—shown here is the present railroad crossing approximately .5 miles upstream.

Today, Yuma continues to have much to offer in terms of its strategic location, its commerce-centric role in Southern Arizona, as well as its natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and its cultural heritage.  If there was a lesson to be learned, it wasn’t so much that Yuma was a special place, but it was that everywhere is special in its own way if you’ll only take the time to discover why…

To see more images in my Yuma collection, visit my website gallery at:

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