Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park

One of Arizona’s earliest prisons tells a colorful story of Westward expansion and life in the Wild West.

As the gold rush attracted prospectors to California, Yuma was often chosen as the easiest route to cross the Colorado River. Gold was also discovered along the river, and as the area’s population surged, so did the need to keep the peace. Built in 1876, Yuma Territorial Prison held just over 3,000 inmates during its 33 years in operation, but the stories during that short time live on today. Nicknamed the “Hellhole of the West,” the prison closed in 1909 when the overcrowded facility moved inmates to Florence.

Tour the Prison

From the prison grounds, visitors can see the original Ocean to Ocean highway bridge, a final link in the U.S. roadway system that connected the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The grounds also overlook the site of the first railroad bridge to span the Colorado River at Yuma Crossing. Climb up the reconstructed guard tower to take in 360-degree views of Yuma and the surrounding landscapes before touring the museum. The original cellblocks built of granite quarried on-site are open for visitors to view, as well as the spooky Dark Cell, plus artifacts that tell the stories of notorious inmates and brutal living conditions in the prison.

Visit Historic Sites

Riverfront parks and walking trails connect the former prison grounds to Yuma’s historic downtown district, where visitors can see what life was like outside of the prison walls during the city’s early years. The Sanguinetti House Museum & Gardens preserves the 19th-century adobe home of one of Yuma’s early business leaders. Yuma’s historic district is also anchored by The Lee Hotel, which dates to 1917, and the Spanish Colonial Revival post office that dates to 1933. Other aging beauties such as the Yuma Theatre and the Kress Building operated during the prison’s heyday, and now house restaurants, bars and shops today.

Learn River History

Discover how important Yuma and the Colorado River were to the development of the Southwest at Colorado River State Historic Park. Located on the grounds of the 1864 U.S. Army Quartermaster Depot, the post supplied all military forts in the Southwest and was integral in Yuma’s origin story. Five original buildings remain on the depot grounds, and exhibits chronicle Arizona’s military history and the construction of major irrigation systems in the early 1900s. Visitors step back to a time when steamboats used the river to deliver supplies to the Arizona Territory.

For More Information

For the most current information on operating days, hours and pricing, please visit the destination website.

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Sanguinetti House Museum & Gardens

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