Yuma was incorporated as a city in 1914, but its existence dates back well before the railroad.
It was Yuma Crossing where travelers heading west could safely cross the Colorado River - 60,000 of them during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Yuma grew substantially as a community in 1877 when the Southern Pacific brought the first railroad to Arizona from California. In 1922, to avoid the threat of floods, the railroad crossing was moved from Madison Avenue to the high ground of the two granite outcroppings, next to the Yuma Territorial Prison. That railroad bridge, located right next to the Ocean to Ocean Highway Bridge, continues to serve as a vital link in Union Pacific's southern transcontinental route. The downtown riverfront area is part of the Yuma Crossing National Historic Landmark and Associates Sites.
With the merger of the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, UP's role in Yuma became even more important, honoring its past as well as preparing for its future. UP played an important part of the development of Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza, which commemorates the first train in Arizona at the original Madison Avenue alignment. The plaza features a 1907 Baldwin locomotive donated to the City of Yuma by Southern Pacific in 1957. Union Pacific donated an original SP Freight Depot (once part of the downtown rail yard) to the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. Recently, the Union Pacific Foundation contributed funds toward the depot's conservation and restoration.
The futures of Union Pacific Railroad and Yuma are intertwined. As UP meets its challenges in the 21st Century, so does Yuma. The planned relocation of the switchyards out of Yuma's downtown is but one example of developments that benefit both the railroad and downtown Yuma' s revitalization. And Yuma Crossing continues to play an important role for both the railroad and the Yuma community.