Wandering the Wild West

We made it to Yuma, Arizona, which is located in the southwestern corner of Arizona on the border of Mexico and California.

Yuma is known to be the sunniest, driest and least humid place in the United States. It has sun 90% of the time and 175 days of the year are 90 degrees or higher.

The Marine Corps Air Station is located in Yuma, thank goodness they didn’t fly the jets at night!

Yuma has done a really nice job in restoring and bringing businesses to the downtown area.

In 2010 the community raised money to restore the Yuma Territorial Prison. It is now a State Historical Park and Museum.

Sitting on the banks of the Colorado at the site of the Yuma Crossing, the much restored prison is well preserved area with much history.

The gold rush in the mid 1800’s and the immigrants traveling west to find their fortune made Yuma an important part of history.

After Yuma became incorporated as the county seat in 1871, the Territorial Prison was authorized by legislature and was built in 1875.

The prison closed in 1909 and became the home of the high school from 1910 to 1914. The prison became a place for scavengers after that and then during the depression homes for hobos and the homeless.

In 1941 it became a Museum and in 1961 a State Park.

Below you can see the guard house, the grounds overlooking the river and the sally port.

Once a prisoner passed into the sally port they entered the yard and the cell houses.

Through the 33 years of operation the prison housed 3069 prisoners and 29 of those were female. The pictures below are from the museum. Remember from a previous post, there was Pearl Hart that spent time in the Florence, Arizona jail?

The women that came to the prison were ruthless as you can see from the posters hanging on the walls of the museum.

Has anyone seen the movie 3:10 to Yuma? There are two versions: one was made in 1957 and starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin and the other in 2007 starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. I have not seen either but it is on my list to see.

In 1887 the infamous “Gates Riot” took place at the prison. Superintendent Gates was ambushed by prisoners but to their surmise Barney Riggs as seen below saved Superintendent Gates life, leaving four inmates dead and one wounded. Riggs was later pardoned for saving Gates life but was killed in Fort Stockton.

Below you see a long picture of the chain gang. There is also a picture of the prison band and the other of what the prisoners called the hell hole.

Inside the prison you could see the cells. Prisoners were six to a cell with only “one pot to piss in” between them all. The first days of the prison the prisoners built their own cells.

I guess I should be locked up! HaHa!

Tracy stands in a doorway to back to back cells. The reason it was called the “hell hole” was because of the inhumane conditions the prisoners lived in.

The prison did not have electricity until 1884. Can you imagine having five men in your cell, six more in the next adjoining cell and on place to go to the restroom, in a place that sees 175 days of 90 degree heat or more?

The first female prisoner arrived in 1878 and the first child born behind prison walls was in 1889. Living conditions for the women seemed to be much better than the mens.

The prison did have a library where prisoners learned to read and it also had a infirmary.

Below is the entrance to the open yard where prisoners played sports and socialized.

Inmates ranged in age from 14 to 88. Half could read and write and two-thirds were caucasian with the remainder of mexican, african american or asian decents.

This is a pucture of a cell block and the prison bell which would ring out for miles if there was an escape.

The Dark Cell, the one place you didn’t want to go. The metal cage sat on the iron grating on the floor.

Prisoners were put in the for numerous offenses. When put in the dark cell the prisoners were stripped down to their underwear and at times there were up to 15 prisoners in the dark cell at a time. No restroom either.

It is said that guards would drop scorpions down the hole in the ceiling.

I can’t even imagine.

There were twenty-six escapes during the thirty-three years of operation, only two were from inside the walls of the prison.

The Prison Cemetery sat outside the walls of the prison. There is a monument with the names of all the souls that lost their lives in prison.

111 deaths occurred at the prison in the 33 years of operation due to disease, accidentally, murder, suicide and escape attempts.

Across the river from the Yuma Territorial Prison sits the Saint Thomas Indian Mission. Dedicated in 1923 the Catholic Church is located in Winterhaven, California.

View from the mission.

Fort Yuma/Quechan Mission is less than a mile down the road. When we drove through the Quechan land of Fort Yuma it looked very deserted. I cannot find any evidence of when the mission was built.

One of the bridges you see below is a railroad bridge, the other is the Ocean to Ocean Bridge. This truss bridge built in 1915 was the first highway crossing the lower part of the Colorado River. The words ocean to ocean on the bridge illuminate at night.

Just a few short miles out of Yuma is the Mexican city of Los Algodones.

Access to the city is easy. You can drive into the small town or you can park your car and walk across.

The main thing that people go to the town for is dental and eye care as it is much cheaper there than in the states. Pharmaceuticals are also available in the small town along with alchohol and souvenirs.

We didn’t care too much to go across, we just wanted to see the border wall.

Back in Yuma there was a Volkswagen swap meet at one of the parks downtown so we decided to take a walk. Brings back memories as a friend of mine in high school had one.

Tracy also had one when she was younger.

There were some neat things going on around Yuma and this one was right up my alley. The Yuma Market Place.

The prices are were really good compared to the Mesa Market place.

Time to relax!

The following day we drove north of Yuma to check out some Roadside America spots on our way to an old mining town.

This is the “Little Church” which sits in the middle of farming fields. Such a quaint little place to stop by.

Six pews and a small pulpit.

In the distance we can see our next stop, “The Bridge to Nowhere “.

The McPhaul Suspension Bridge was built in 1929 and is almost 800 feet long. It was closed in 1968 due to safety issues. When visited you can clearly see it is a bridge to nowhere.

You know I love my wildflowers so I just have to share these.

Notice the initials and names on the Saguaro. People are very disrespectful sometimes.

As we drive out Highway 95 we notice we are entering the Yuma Proving Grounds of the United States Army.

As we reach our turn we drive another three miles through the proving grounds then suddenly find our next seven miles of unpaved road leading to the Castle Dome Mines Museum & Ghost Town.

Founded in 1864 this mining towns last resident left in 1979.

All the pictures you see are authentic and original (of course the mannequins aren’t).

This was a wonderful step back into the wild west and the silver mining days.

As we start off our self guided tour at Adams cabin we wander through the late 1800’s.

Mining rail and wash.

This building was used as the very first museum by Darrell and Billie Casey. When they moved to Quartzite they took most of their memorabilia with them.

The schoolhouse and school bell.

This was the barbershop and below that a Veterans building of some sort.

In the back half of the Veterans building were names written on the walls of all the military personnel that have visited here. Very Cool !!

The Flora Temple Bar (one of the five in this little town) had a restaurant and even an old jukebox with music!

I got a kick out of some of the songs that were on the jukebox.

Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton, Turn, Turn Turn by The Byrds, There Goes My Everything by Elvis Presley and All My Rowdy Friends by Hank Williams, Jr.

This was the local mechanics shop.

A miners tent and the Cook House.

There was a big table in one room and a fancier dining area in another.

Another bar with the owners living quarters.

This little side room was also, you guessed it, a bar.

In the one picture you can see the mine car and rail behind.

The Mercantile that had everything you needed. Look at the ceiling, isn’t it amazing?!

You can’t have a Mercantile without a Dentist’s office right?

The Church with a pipe organ.

This was the Prospectors Office.

And then the jail when you got a little out of hand!

As you can see, we were allowed to take the girls with us.

The Hotel was beautiful. It had a bar, a parlor, a back room for gambling and a big bear skin on the wall.

The local Ladies Shop where we tried on hats!

The Blacksmiths Shop.

The Tool Shop

Now we will see the most recent part of the town. The 70’s!

There was a garage out there that had two original cars. How many men would like to get their hands on these?

There was a small house next to the garage.

And my favorite, the old camper!

Back across the ditch was the Machine Shop.

This is the Stone’s Cabin.

Mining equipment.

This building had two sides, one was a diner and the other a display of items found in the desert.

Back at the Museum there were some interesting artifacts like the 1870 Levi’s and the nude picture at the end of the fifth bar!

There was also the town newspaper office.

It was a beautiful sunny day, not too hot, so we had some lunch before we headed to the second part of the tour.

The Castle Dome Silver Mines.

This part of the tour was an extension of the town and where the miners were. Here is just one of the mine shafts.

Rita came to Castle Dome from Bolivar, Tennessee looking for the right man?

She had the most elaborate house in the mining town and always had beans and coffee on for visitors. She even dug for silver.

The mystery of finding the right man, we shall never know!

This next place was a bunk house with a very modern bathroom.

This is a diagram of the second half of our tour.

Down by the ditch was another miners tent house.

Building with mining tools.

This house wasn’t on the map but it seemed like a local bar or eatery on the first floor and the second floor was the doctors office.

We saw the city building.

We visited the Cemetery and read a few interesting stories.

There was Floras Fault which you can see the cracks in the earth.

The Mill

We took about 2 hours to do the complete tour. We took a rest on a bench and then the girls took a rest. Harlie sat there for a very long time.

Abandoned mine shafts that are all different.

A mine shaft out in the field that is no longer used.

Its very interesting to see into the past in an authentic place such as the Castle Dome Mining Town.

We are headed to California and here are some shots of the Imperial Dunes.

Along the way we pulled off to see the Plank Road. The Plank Road is eight miles long and was the only way that travelers had to cross the dunes. When .they became sand covered a team of horses would move the sections.

A Tiki Tree Trunk in Calipatria, California.

WELCOME TO SLAB CITY! OMG! If you ever seen the movie Independence Day with Will Smith you would think you drove right into the movie. Mainly used by squatters and boondockers (for multiple months or years) its a place most of us don’t want to be.

Welcome to Salvation Mountain. Inside the Slab City this majestic piece of art sits in the desert for travelers to visit.

Created by Leonard Knight ( 1931 to 2014 ) a local resident. The philosophy of the art is built around the sinners prayers.

The artwork is made of adobe and straw and painted in lead free paint.

Scriptures can be found throughout this enormous piece of artwork.

Leonard Knight, RIP. The site is part of the Folk Art Society of America.

Volunteers keep the lasting preservation of Salvation Mountain. Many visitors bring paint to the site when they visit.

The first piece of art is in Coachella, California, and it sits on Highway 111. It is a sculpture called “Etherea” by Edoardo Tresoldi, 30 years old from Milan.

The second is called the Oculus Sol Landscape Project, it shows how beautifully efficient a landscape can be. This is located in Indio, California.

Shields Date Farm also was a must stop in Indio for a popular Date Shake. It is also famous for the “Romance and Sex Life of a Date” movie. The movie room was being refurbished on our visit but you can find the movie on YouTube.

A beautiful day for a drive to Palm Springs.

While in Palm Springs we saw the statues of Gene Autry, Lucille Ball, Sonny Bono and Marilyn Monroe.

In front of the art museum are the Barcode Babies or the Palm Springs Babies, these eight foot tall babies roam freely in a sandbox. Brought to the United States in 2018 from Prague. Their faces if you can see are barcodes.

We also walked along the Walk of Stars on Palm Canyon Drive.

A visit to Moorten’s Botanical Gardens, the desert garden for all seasons and the home of the first Cactarium is a must see!

Not sure what kind of flower this is but I thought it was pretty. Top right is a Twisted Rib Cactus, Bottom left is Barbed Wire Cactus and bottom right are Organ Pipe Cactus.

TL: Agave TR: Prickly Pear Cactus BL: Desert Spoon BR: Another variety of Prickly Pear Cactus

Top two are different types of Agave BL: Dudleya Cactus. BR: Pincushion Cactus

TL: Lava garden TR: Giant Agave BL: Texas Ranger. BR: Braided Cholla

TL: Ocotillo Cactus TR: Totem Pole BL: Golden Barrel Cactus BR: Old Man Cactus

More Agaves and Barrel Cactus

The First Cactarium

Can you see the hummingbird?

Green onyx, fossils and petrified wood.

A Madagascar Palm and an Aloe Tree.

Another variety of Prickly Pear and a walkway of Borzicactus and Silk Floss Cactus.

A metal dog howling, a succulent and the Crown of Thorns.

I really enjoyed the cactus gardens. Soon they cactus will be blooming and I can’t wait

Four days ago we left Yuma and traveled to Thermal, California where we are staying at the Oasis Palms RV Resort.

I hope you had a great week! Mine was busy exploring southern California and tomorrow we are off to Joshua Tree National Park.

Have a great weekend!


  1. You are getting to do what many of us can only dream about. How lucky you were to find friends who wanted to do the same thing at the same pace and fashion. I enjoy reading about your adventures!


  2. Loved the little church! Loved the ghost town! Loved the salvation mountain & loved the cactus garden! So cool sista! Sounds like my kind of weather too❤️ Have fun, be safe & travel on! Luv u!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s