Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park gives visitors a glimpse back to the true Wild West days. The prison was built in 1875, on a rocky area overlooking Colorado River. At one time the prison was home to over 3,000 individuals. Their crimes ranged from polygamy to murder.
The famous prison wasn’t just for men; there were 29 women that spent some time behind the adobe walls. It wasn’t a comfortable place to stay, with temperatures racing as high as 120 degrees in the summertime. The prison became overcrowded in 1909 and was closed down. The structure was then used for the Yuma High School and eventually became a park.
Yuma Territorial Prison is living proof that there really was a wild West. More than 3,000 culprits, convicted of crimes ranging from polygamy to murder, lived in rock and adobe cells during the prison's 33-year life. Still standing are the cells, main gate, and guard tower that give visitors a glimpse of convict life a century ago. A fascinating museum details the prison's development and tells stories of the desperados, including 29 women, who did time there. For visitors' convenience, picnic tables and a Ramada are provided. Nearby, Yuma Crossing State Historic Park is one of the Southwest's richest historical sites. Paytans, Native Americans, Spanish explorers, mountain men, gold-seeking emigrants, soldiers, muleskinners, railroad engineers, steamboat captains, and shipping magnates met at this single junction over the centuries.
Most of the Yuma Territorial Prison still stands today. You will still see the cells, main gate, and guard tower. The museum has interesting information on the prison and those who spend time in it.
Historic Park also offers picnic tables and a ramada for those who would like to pack a lunch. Tours are available on request.
You can get to the park by taking the 4th Street exit off of Interstate 8. The park is on the south side of the Colorado River (in the bend in the river), on a cliff.