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: http://www.costamesaphotography.com/Arizona/Yuma/
If you have comments or feedback, drop me a line at CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com