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Yuma Territorial Prison

Brief History

Due to gold finds along the Colorado River, Yuma experienced a large population growth around 1858. Yuma was incorporated in 1871. In 1875, $25,000 was approved and budgeted for the construction of the prison. Construction began in April of 1876. Prisoners were used for the construction of this facility and in July of 1876, the first 7 prisoners were moved in. The facility remained open for 33 years. It was closed in 1909 and all the prisoners were transferred to a new facility in Florence.

More Than Local Residents

An interesting fact was that the local residents were upset with the fact that the prison had more amenities than most homes in Yuma at the time. Things like electricity, bathroom/shower facilities, a library with over 2,000 books, and even a prison band were some of the things found at the prison.

That certainly did not mean it was all fun and games though. Due to Arizona’s high temperatures, the prison was brutally hot. It was also surrounded by the Colorado River, the desert, and quicksand making it just about impossible to escape.

Things like the snake pit, ball and chain, and the dark cell were feared punishments. Tuberculosis ran rapidly throughout the facility making it the number 1 killer of inmates.

Thankfully Only Visiting

Today a visit to the prison only means you are visiting a part of history, thankfully!!! The prison sits on the Colorado River east of Interstate 8. It features a gift shop, museum, grounds to tour, a guard tower that overlooks the Colorado River, the Ocean To Ocean Bridge, and beautiful scenery.

The Dark Cell

Take a walk around and see what it would be like to have been a prisoner at this facility from the small cells to the dark cell. When you enter the dark cell you can imagine what it would have been like living in a cell with complete darkness…no thanks!!!

Lots To Do

Making your way to the outside you can walk the grounds and check out the prison cemetery where 104 prisoners are buried. You can also wander into the trails of the East Yuma Wetlands and explore the hiking trails.

We spent a good part of the day there. If you rush through everything you could be in and out in about an hour or so. If you are like us and like to take the time to read the displays, watch the short movie, take lots of pictures, visit Gateway Park, and hike the trails in the wetlands, you will be there all day like us.


  • Free Parking
  • Great Scenic Views
  • Packed With Interesting History and Displays


  • Outside Displays and Tours Subject To All Weather Conditions
  • Closed Tuesday & Wednesday
  • Entrance Fee
HoursThursday-Monday 9am-5pm
ClosedThanksgiving Eve & Thanksgiving
ClosedChristmas Eve & Christmas Day

Final Thoughts

We had a great time and visit. The day we went was absolutely beautiful so the weather was not an issue. There is RV & tow vehicle parking so if you wanted to swing by with your RV as you are traveling through, you have places to park. We would definitely recommend a stop at the Yuma Territorial Prison if you are in the area.

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TAOW Yuma Territorial Prison


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2 thoughts on “Yuma Territorial Prison”

  1. Wish we had known you were in Yuma — that’s only a few hours away from us! Are you traveling in the West for a while?? Please let me know…..maybe we can meet half-way somewhere!
    Great article and review of the Territorial Prison. We have been there, and enjoyed our tour, as well!


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