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Yuma is a city in and the county seat of Yuma County, Arizona, United States. It is located in the southwestern corner of the state, and the population of the city was 93,064 at the 2010 census, up from the 2000 Census Bureau population of 77,515.
Yuma is the principal city of the Yuma, AZ Metropolitan Statistical Area, which consists of Yuma County. According to the United States Census Bureau, the 2008 estimated population of the Yuma MSA is 194,322, though more than 85,000 retirees make Yuma their winter residence.
The area’s first settlers were Native American tribes whose descendants now occupy the Cocopah and Quechan reservations. In 1540, expeditions under Hernando de Alarcon and Melchior Diaz visited the area and immediately saw the natural crossing of the Colorado River as an ideal spot for a city, as the Colorado River narrows to slightly under 1,000 feet wide in one small point. Later military expeditions that crossed the Colorado River at the Yuma Crossing include Juan Bautista de Anza (1774), the Mormon Battalion (1848) and the California Column (1862).
Following the establishment of Fort Yuma, a town sprang up on the New Mexico Territory (now Arizona) side of the Colorado. The townsite was duly registered in San Diego, demonstrating that both banks of the Colorado River just below its confluence with the Gila were recognized as being within the jurisdiction of California. The county of San Diego collected taxes from there for many years. The town, initially called Colorado City, was renamed Arizona City in 1858. The city was almost completely destroyed by the Great Flood of 1862 and had to be rebuilt on higher ground. It took the name Yuma in 1873.
Steamboats at Yuma Landing, CA, 1880
From the 1850s to the 1870s, the Yuma Crossing was known for its ferry crossing. From 1852 it was the major steamboat stop on the way up and down the Colorado River. The steamboats transported passengers and equipment for the various mines and military outposts along the Colorado and into New Mexico Territory. They offloaded them from ships at the mouth of the Colorado River at Robinson’s Landing and from 1864 at Port Isabel. From 1864, the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, today a state historic park, supplied all forts in present-day Arizona, as well as large parts of Colorado and New Mexico. Yuma served as the gateway to the new Republic (later State) of California, as it was one of the few natural spots where travelers could cross the otherwise very wide Colorado River. After Arizona became a separate territory, Yuma became the county seat for the area in 1864.
Yuma Crossing and RR bridge in 1886. The bridge was built in 1877.
The Southern Pacific Railroad bridged the river in 1877, and acquired George Alonzo Johnson’s Colorado Steam Navigation Company, the only steamboat company on the river. Yuma became the head of navigation on the river, ending the need for Port Isabel, which was abandoned in 1879.
Yuma is located near the borders of California to the west and Mexico to the south, and just west of the Gila River’s confluence with the Colorado. The city is approximately 60 miles from the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), a branch of the Pacific.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 106.7 square miles (276 km2), of which 106.6 square miles (276 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.07%) is water.