The Dam SEAT Ride Part III
by Deryle Mehrten
Part III - Yuma and the Southern Dams. Between Parker and Yuma, the site of the last major dam on the Colorado, there are some pretty wide open spaces. If you’re in a hurry come down AZ 95 from Parker and pickup US 95 at Quartzsite, it’s a straight shot down US 95 to Yuma. Or…ride south on Indian Route 1 that runs from Parker through Poston to Interstate 10. IR 1 cuts through the heart of the Colorado River Indian Reservation. This was the location of several World War II Japanese interment camps. The large monument south of Poston is worth a stop. Some of our past history that isn’t our best.
We have stayed in Blythe on the California side of the Colorado and rode down to Yuma via California Highway 78 to Ogilby Road to Interstate 10. You ride by some pretty awesome sand dunes taking this route. If it’s windy, sand will get into everything. If the early spring rains have been good, the desert will be painted with spring flowers. The reds, yellows, and a bunch of other colors I just don’t know the names of are amazing. Riding down the California side you’ll need to do a bit of Interstate 8 to get to the last big dam on the US side of the Colorado.
The Imperial Dam is just north of Yuma, surrounded by the Yuma Proving Grounds. We rode up to the dam on the Arizona side taking US 95 up to East Imperial Dam Road that cuts though a section of the Yuma Proving Grounds. Their display of armament at the turn off is impressive. To get a view of the dam on the Arizona side we had to enter a gated RV site. The guard at the kiosk where we had to get a pass was nice enough and we rode in no problem. Next time we’ll explore the California side.
On more than one occasion Wanda and I have spent the night in Yuma. The choice of hotels and motels covers the complete spectrum – dirt cheap and really dirty, to way over priced and still could be dirty. The last two or three times we’ve stayed at the Best Western Coronado Yuma very near to old town and the two Arizona State Parks. The old Yuma jail, pretty close by, is worth a visit.
Right next to the hotel is the Yuma Landing Restaurant. Being so close to the Colorado River I thought “Landing” referred to a boat dock. Nope…the restaurant is at the site of the first airplane landing in Yuma. The walls in the restaurant are covered with airplane pictures and memorabilia from the early 1900s. Good ambience and good food. We’ll stay there again.
There are two other dams after the Imperial Dam. The small Laguna Dam is a few miles south of the Imperial Dam. It looks more like a lock than a dam. The Morales Dam, farther south of Yuma, seems to be accessible from the Mexico side. Wanda and I chose not to cross the border into Mexico.
From Yuma what’s left of the Colorado flows into Mexico, with very little, if any, emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The life blood of the farmer, water is pumped out of the river and turns the desert green for miles along the US and Mexico border. The growing season must be 12 months long in this desert region.
A couple of do’s and don’ts apply if you choose to explore the Colorado River basin in Arizona. First of all, this is the desert, the Mojave and Sonoran, and it gets hot, real hot. Don’t let the winter months fool you either, it can get hot in the winter, too. Carry water and stay hydrated. Also, there are a million tourists that are doing the same thing you are doing – site seeing. Traffic can be pretty thick and not very “attentive” during the “on” season. The little town of Quartzsite, for example, can go from a population of a couple of thousand to 10s of thousands. Pay attention, they aren’t always doing so.
In the summer months motel and hotel rooms can be hard to come by. There’s a bunch of Mom & Pop type hotels all along the river but lots of folks know about ‘em. It’s best to call ahead and get reservations if you want to stay in a particular location. The casinos on the Nevada side of the Colorado can be down right cheap on week nights. Lots of places to stay and lots of wide open roads to get there. We enjoyed our Dam SEAT Ride down the Colorado.
[Note: As you can see from the map to the left, there’s quite a few more dams in Arizona. Some are on dirt roads and we may never get a picture of us at one of those dams. We’ll visit all the rest for sure.
That ends this chapter of our Dam SEAT Ride, Dams along the Colorado.]