Sitting on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River, three miles west of the confluence of the Colorado and the historic Gila River, stand the ruins of Arizona's famous Territorial Prison, and a short distance west are the remaining buildings that served as a part of the Yuma Quartermaster's Depot. Fernando de Alarcon, who accompanied Coronado on his search for the Seven Cities of Cibola, passed this site in 1540. Padre Kino saw the present location of the Prison and the Quartermaster's Depot in 1683, and Padre Graces established a mission directly across the river and was later killed there by the Indians in 1781. Yuma began to experience the American westward surge when countless immigrants crossed by ferry from Yuma on their way to the California gold fields in 1849. In 1850, a military post was established at Yuma, and when rich placer gold strikes on the Colorado River precipitated a gold rush in 1858, Yuma experienced a boom. In 1871 Yuma incorporated and became the county seat of Yuma County. The Territorial Prison was authorized by the Legislature in 1875 and $25,000 was budgeted for the project. Ground was broken on April 28, 1876, and some of the prisoners were pressed into service to build their cells. The first seven inmates moved into the facility on July 1, 1876. The Prison held a variety of law violators, including the legendary stagecoach robber Pearl Hart. The Prison continued in operation for 33 years when, due to overcrowding, all inmates were moved to a new facility in Florence, Arizona.


Yuma Territorial Prison authorized by Territorial Legislature.


Prison opens. First Convict: William Hall


First Female Convict: Lizzie Gallagher, First escape by J. Lewis


Guard Tower built


Electricity created at Prison, first place in Yuma to have electricity


Sally Port built
Hospital created at YTP, only hospital in town


Gates Riot: four convicts dead, one wounded


Women's cells built


First Library in Yuma created at YTP


Dark Cell dug out of south wall


New Yard opens


Prison closes and everyone transferred to Florence, AZ


Yuma High School operates at Prison until 1914


Ocean to Ocean Bridge built


City operates Prison as Museum until 1960


Guard Tower used for WWII spotting


YTP becomes third State Park in Arizona


Yuma Chain Gang saves the Prison and YCNHA takes over management of the Park to present


Lowell Perry, Jr. takes over as Executive Director, Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area