Jan 252015
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Yuma Quartermaster Depot


Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park provides peek into late nineteenth century history

The 10-acre Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park in Yuma, Arizona provides a peek into the history of Yuma at a time when it was an important U.S. Army supply station for forts in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas. The U.S. Army Depot was in operation from the mid 1860s to the 1880s.

Ocean vessels brought goods to the Gulf of California where they were transferred onto steamboats for the trip upriver to Yuma. That was before dams were constructed on the Colorado River. It ran faster and deeper than it does today. Today the river rarely reaches its delta and the Gulf. At the Depot, goods were unloaded and shipped upriver via steamboats or overland via mule-drawn freight wagons. 

Yuma Quartermaster Depot warehouse

The warehouse, in which a six month supply of clothing, food, ammunition and other goods was kept at all times

Yuma Quartermaster Depot water reservoir

A steam pump propelled muddy water from the Colorado River through pipes to an elevated holding tank. Sediment fell to the bottom and gravity flow forced cleared water through pipes to buildings and houses in the area. Periodically, the army sent a soldier in to clean out the silt.

Quartermaster's Office

Quartermaster’s Office

The Quartermaster, the officer in charge of the depot, originally had his office in a corner room of the noisy warehouse. In 1872, permission was granted to build new office space. In 1873, the U.S. Army Signal Corps operated Arizona’s first non-private telegraph line from the building. The line ran from San Diego through Yuma to Prescott and Tucson.

Inside Quartermaster's Office

Part of display in Quartermaster’s Office


Quartermaster Depot Commanding Officer Residence

Commanding Officer Quarters

In 1859 steamboat entrepreneur George Alonzo Johnson built a riverside home for his bride. The home later became the Commanding Officer’s Quarters. It is believed to be Arizona’s oldest Anglo-built adobe building.

Commanding Officer Quarter's interior

Rooms in the Commanding Officer’s Quarters and Kitchen (a separate building)
are decorated with period furnishings

With the coming of the railroad in 1877, the Depot’s importance lessened. The Army closed it in 1883. The Signal Corps remained on site until 1891. In that year the Weather Bureau became a separate entity and civilian employees of that agency lived in the Quartermaster’s Office until 1949.

In 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt designated the Commanding Officer’s Quarters a U.S. customs reserve. The U.S. Customs Service remained in that building until 1955.

Corral House

Corral House

The Corral House stored grain and tack for the mules and horses. The adobe corral where the animals were housed no longer exists. Only the rooms at the far end of the current Corral House are original. The other rooms were added in the early 1900s by the Bureau of Reclamation when the Yuma Project was based in the building,

One of the most interesting displays in the Park is in that Corral House. Panels, photographs and videos outline the story of the Yuma Project, the first project to build dams and canals on the Colorado River in the early 1900s. The design of the Laguna Dam was based on successful weirs built in India. Because of the dam’s location, any canal constructed to provide irrigation to the Yuma Valley would have needed to cross the Gila River if originating in Arizona or the Colorado River if originating in California. To solve the issue, an inverted siphon was built under the Colorado River.

Yuma Quartermaster Depot Park

Today the warehouse contains an assortment of equipment and displays.
It also contains information on the dams on the Colorado River.

The Colorado River is one of the heaviest developed in the world. The story of its development and the consequences, intended and unintended, is fascinating. And the story continues to evolve with new conservation projects and an international agreement with Mexico for water sharing and improving the habitat in the river delta.

Yuma Quartermaster Depot Park building


old tractor


wooden wheel


The Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park is open seven days a week 9 am to 4:30 pm from October to May with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It is open six days a week the remainder of the year, closed on Mondays. It is well worth a visit. The Visitor Center is also the site of the Yuma Visitors Bureau.

Yuma Quartermaster Depot Park picnic area

Picnic area on grounds of park

 PIN ITYuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park provides a look into early Arizona history

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  30 Responses to “Yuma Quartermaster Depot”

  1. Looks really interesting and great place to visit for all us history buffs. I particularly like the peek inside the quarters you give us with the photos. It’s amazing what great shape they’ve kept everything in.

  2. What a nice job they’ve done in preserving history…and you, in recounting it with your pictures and prose.

  3. What an interesting history! I can’t help wondering if I slept through that class day in History! I am always shocked by how much I don’t know or what I may have forgotten. I love that they have preserves this! The photos are just super Donna!

    • Thanks Jacquie. I find there is so much interesting history to discover in places I visit. There is no way a school curriculum could cover all the details and needs to concentrate on the bigger picture.

  4. What a fascinating story and history of this place, it’s good to the quartermaster in this time and place. I’m not surprised there’s not much water emptying into the deltas with all the water competition.

  5. Amazing how the water situation of the Colorado River has changed. We had no idea that riverboats used to be able to use it.

  6. You do such a good job of telling about a particular place Donna…with both the great photos and the narrative. I have been to Yuma and didn’t even know about this!

  7. I’m pretty sure we stopped in Yuma when we passed through in 2006, but we certainly didn’t learn this much detail about the history of the place. Thanks for sharing the insights.

  8. I love the fascinating glimpses into the past that the historic parks provide through so many sites and the Yuma Quartermaster Depot was no exception. As a history geek these places really get my imagination going! The displays in the warehouse of the old vehicles must have been fun to see, too.

  9. Besides being an interesting place to visit, the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park looks like a great getaway from crowds!

    • We visited first thing on a Monday morning. There was a group of schoolkids touring the park, but other than that it was pretty quiet. I don’t know if that is always the case or not.

  10. We just pulled into Yuma today, so this may possibly be something that we will check out. There is so much history in the Yuma area and there seems to be lots to see around here and tons of hiking that we can do!


    • There is a lot of history in the area. I didn’t do any hiking, but I imagine there are some good spots for that. We also enjoyed walking around the historic downtown, touring Yuma Territorial Prison Historic State Park, and a visit to Martha’s Gardens Date Farm. If we had been there longer, I might have looked into one of the farm to feast tours. Enjoy your stay.

  11. Interesting history here, for sure. Also interesting about conservation efforts to day and the agreement with Mexico. I really appreciate places like this and always glad when they are being maintained well and open to give us glimpses into history.

  12. Very interesting history at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park. It’s amazing the impact water has on humans and also the impact humans have on water resources.

  13. I love the fell of the Depot. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live there!

  14. What an interesting trip back in time! My favorite part is the photos of the CO’s living quarters. It seems like a movie set, yet it is the real thing!

    • Thanks Suzanne. I wasn’t too sure when I was taking the living quarters pictures, because they were behind glass. We could step into the doorway, but a glass wall separated us from the rest of the room.

  15. I love reading your posts as you frame them in such a great historical perspective. The patina on that tractor is captured perfectly Donna.

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