YUMA, ARIZONA: BE INSPIRED AT THE RIVER’S EDGE
By Linda Kissam
BIG BLEND RADIO INTERVIEW: This episode of Big Blend Radio’s Nature Connection show focuses on the Yuma Bird, Nature & History Festival with travel writer Linda Kissam “Food, Wine & Shopping Diva,” festival bird watching guide Daniel Steward who is a Wildlife Biologist for the US Army Yuma Proving Ground, and festival co-organizer Yvonne Peach who owns the Coronado Motor Hotel and Yuma Landing Bar & Grill, and runs the Historical Society Museum of Aviation & Tourism. Listen To our download the podcast on BlogTalkRadio.com, Spreaker.com, YouTube.com, and SoundCloud.com.
Yuma Arizona is much more than you think. Situated between Phoenix and San Diego, Yuma has been trending in all the right ways. Ways that are surprising for sure, giving it the attention it deserves as a true destination in its own right. It is an easy 2.5-hour drive from either city.
Did you know that Yuma offers plenty of outdoor opportunities on its rivers and lakes? Yup. There is water everywhere in this city. Although located in the striking Sonoran Desert, surrounded by mountains and sand dunes, with a plethora of historic sites to visit, diverse local cuisine to sample and affordable accommodations… it’s the water activities that make it so surprisingly inspired.
It was the Colorado River that put Yuma on the map, and it still plays an important part in this City’s recreational offerings. There are lots of ways to enjoy the river experiences without getting wet. Take the riverfront trail that runs from Joe Henry Memorial Park (23rd Ave. & First St.) to Pacific Avenue/Avenue 2E. The paved, lighted multipurpose pathway is perfect for walking, birding, biking and running. You can rent bikes by the hour or day (24-hour period) at the Yuma Crossing State Historic Park.
There is a five-mile trail extension that follows the East Main Canal all the way to 40th Street. The extension branches off on the west side of the canal – cross over at 1st Street and continues along the canal’s east side. If you make it to the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge, take an unpaved trail about ½ mile to a dynamic overlook featuring vistas up and down the river, or circle the East Wetlands on a three-mile loop. For a bird’s-eye view of the East Wetlands, stick to the extra-smooth stretch paved path on the levee.
If you’re more of an “in/on the water” kind of person you are going to be thrilled with the adventures waiting for you. Think dipping into the Colorado River or Lake Martinez, Hidden Shores, Senator’s Wash and many other nearby areas via river tubing, canoeing, kayaking, jet skiing, paddleboarding or renting a Pontoon boat. They’re all an exciting way to enjoy Yuma providing hours of fun, fast relaxation. All these forms of recreation are available via classes, festivals or rentals.
Speaking of festivals, once a year there is a fabulous event called the Yuma Bird, Nature & History Festival. It is an inspiring way to start off the year and incorporates most of the things (and more) that I just spoke about. The weather is good, it’s affordable and there is something for everyone. I attended the 2020 Festival, and it literally blew my mind. I personally came for the garden tours and canoeing, but the birding and wildlife activities stole my heart. Who knew?
There were dozens of activities including outings and seminars. I was immersed in Yuma’s exquisite natural beauty. The next one will be held January 15-17, 2021. Mark your calendar. Save the date! I think you should come and explore regional wildlife refuges, the Colorado River wetlands, local gardens, museums, and historic sites. There are so many activities to choose from. Go star-gazing, hiking, canoeing, bird and wildlife watching. The professional talks on birds, bugs, butterflies, native plants, aviation and southwest history are truly dynamic.
Here’s a rundown of the things I was inspired and delighted by.
Lodging: Coronado Motor Hotel. What I like about this friendly locally owned hotel is that it is affordable and historic, with a back story that will leave you in awe. It offers spacious well-maintained rooms, plenty of parking and a killer bar and grill on property. It is centrally located which is also a plus and the staff knows absolutely everything about the area.
The bar and grill serves amazing comfort food. It offers some of the best Mexican food in the city alongside any other American style comfort dish you might be hankering for. The cocktails and beer are cool and refreshing. It seems anything you might want to order is at hand. Don’t miss their weekend music offerings in the bar. Get up and dance with the locals or just enjoy yourself with a brew and nachos. This whole complex is a balm to the weary traveler. Highly recommend.
Gardens: I love visiting gardens – anywhere, anytime, anyplace. My Moody Demonstration Garden Tour was an hour of strolling native and desert adaptive plants to gain answers about what to use water-wise plants in my garden in Arizona. I also did the Conservation Garden tour. This one was larger and featured a magical wet-land section for local ducks and birds. Both gardens are just a few minutes from the hotel.
Museums: I opted in for the tour of the Cocopah Museum and Fry Bread Tasting. I had no idea what to expect, but I am a foodie and I love trying new food experiences. The ride over was 30 minutes or so through fields bursting with vegetables. A guided tour through the museum was informative and meaningful to understanding the native Yuma culture, but it was the cooking demo that made my day. I learned how to make fry bread and I got to taste screwbean mesquite tea. Both were fabulous by the way. Rounding up the afternoon was a touching dance recital from several members of the Cocopah tribe. Moms and daughters twirled and dipped to a rhythmic beat that sang to my soul. I won’t soon forget this experience.
Birding: Bird watching has been on my “to-do” list for quite a while. I hadn’t done it before, but something about the general idea of knowing what wildlife is in my backyard appeals to me. There are over 400 bird species in Yuma, AZ, and people I know who have done a bird-watching experience always rave about it. So when I found out that I could join a birdwatching tour going to Senator’s Wash, I jumped at the chance.
Biologist Daniel Steward led the half-day tour. The mix of the group was interesting. About half were dedicated birders (DB), half curious newbies. The DB’s were so enthusiastic, it was hard not to get excited about every winged creature in sight. Daniel brought equipment that let us see all the species close up. His thoughtful narration and unbelievable ability to “sense” and then point out birds none of the group could see yet, was uncanny. This really should be on your bucket list.
Yuma really is something unexpected for you to discover. After all, we believe what we see. To be inspired by a destination is to be reminded that what stirs us so deeply about a place is, in fact, a connection to its sense of beauty, abundance and distinct possibilities. Find your inspiration and connection here.
Linda Kissam ‘Food, Wine & Shopping Diva’ is a professional travel, food, and wine writer who specializes in easy, breezy destination stories sharing her favorite things about the places she visits. Visit www.AllInGoodTaste.info