Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is located along the Colorado River in Yuma. The prison is an important piece of Yuma’s (and the country’s) history. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area.
Visitors delight in exploring the maze of stone-walled cells within this historic former jail, and escaping back in time to one filled with bandits, gunslingers, prospectors and more.
Discover more about this interesting and important Arizona state park, and more about the history of Yuma during your visit to Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park.
Explore this impressive site and you will learn all about the prison’s early days and stories about the inmates and their jailers. Just imagine what it must have been like here more than a hundred years ago!
After checking out the museum exhibits and all of the prison, stop into the gift shop and pick up a few souvenirs. The park gift shop carries books, keychains, t-shirts, handcuffs and more to make your visit more memorable.
Then take a break in the picnic area under one of the shaded ramadas, have a relaxing lunch and enjoy the view (you can see California from here) before heading over to one of the many recreational parks in the area.
Museum & Exhibits at Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
Explore the historic prison and check out the exhibits within the 3,600 sq ft museum at Yuma Territorial Prison. Begin your journey through history with the introductory exhibits within the Visitor Center.
Next, discover the various outbuildings, original cells, the dark cell, library, water tank, guard tower, caliche hill and the sally port (the entrance into and out of the prison).
Descriptive signs and photographs guide you from room to room and tell the stories of this historic structure and the people who have passed through it. The inside of this fortress originally held a mess hall, a recreation hall, a women’s ward, cellblocks, a blacksmith shop, a tuberculosis ward, a bullpen and an exercise yard.
Climb up the guard tower for a spectacular view of Yuma, and check out the view from the View Deck to see more. From this height you can see the Colorado River, Old Fort Yuma, the 1915 Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge and the Union Pacific Railroad bridge.
The Yuma Territorial Prison was operational between 1876 and 1909. During that time 3,069 prisoners served sentences here; 29 of these prisoners were women. Pearl Hart, also known as the ‘Bandit Queen’ (a famous stagecoach robber) was one of these women.
Nearby, a graveyard contains the bodies of the 104 prisoners who died while in custody, many from tuberculosis (common during that time period). Overall the prison was considered a model institution during its time, in spite of its nickname – the Hell Hole.
Yet it eventually became overcrowded and the prisoners were transferred to another larger, more modern prison and Yuma Territorial Prison closed its doors for good. The building would serve in other capacities over the years until it finally became a state park.
Wildlife Viewing at Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
These natural habitats protect many birds, various fish, lizards, snakes, iguanas, rabbits, bighorn sheep, deer, turtles, squirrels, coyotes, wild horses and many more native species.
Yuma has many native and migrating birds too, such as great blue herons, roadrunners, geese, snowy egrets, quails, eagles, falcons, doves and many songbirds.
Become a Junior Ranger at Yuma Territorial Prison SHP
Junior Ranger Pledge: ‘As an Arizona State Parks Junior Ranger, I pledge to help the park rangers protect and preserve habitat, wildlife, and help keep the park clean and safe for visitors and wildlife.’
Encourage younger generations to do their part and help preserve the beauty of the parks for future visitors. If your child is between the ages of 6-12 they can become a Junior Ranger at Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park.
All they need to do is download and complete the Junior Ranger Activity Sheet and then request a Junior Ranger booklet at the park’s visitor center once you’ve arrived at the park. Complete each of the activities during your stay.
When all of the activities have been completed report back to a Park Ranger who will swear your Junior Ranger in and award them with a Junior Ranger Button. Kids can become a Junior Ranger at most Arizona State Parks and earn each park’s unique Junior Ranger Button. Check out the For Kids section on each park’s website.
Pets at Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
Pets are not allowed at Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park. You will need to make other arrangements if traveling with your pets.
Lodging Near Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is a day use area only and doesn’t have any overnight accommodations. But there are plenty of places nearby for you to camp, stay in your RV, a hotel or B&B. Here are a couple of options close by:
Historic Coronado Motor Hotel – 233 S 4th Ave
Historic Spanish style hotel with comfortable rooms, complimentary breakfast and a pool.
Riverfront RV Park – 2300 W Water St
Older RV park along the Colorado River and close to shopping and restaurants.
La Fuente Inn & Suites – 1513 E 16th St
Comfy rooms, free breakfast and large outside pool.
Attractions Near Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
Riverside Park – 50 Prison Hill Rd, Yuma
Small park below Yuma Territorial Prison and bordered by Gateway Park and East Wetlands Park.
Gateway Park – E 1st St & S Gila St, Yuma
A playground, picnic area and fishing dock are located at this nearby riverside beach park.
East Wetlands Park Yuma Crossing Bike Path
A 3 mile loop along the riverbank.
Yuma West Wetlands – 282 N 12th Ave
Family park with multi-use trails, a native vegetation area, a hummingbird garden and a children’s play area.
Other Historic Attractions Nearby:
Colorado River State Historic Park – 201 N 4th Ave, Yuma
Visit another piece of early Arizona history nearby. This former Army depot played a significant role in the development of early Arizona and its surrounding territories. The park features restored buildings, exhibits, artifacts and beautifully maintained grounds that overlook the Colorado River.
Historic Old Town Yuma
Historic buildings and new shops and restaurants to check out nearby.
Tumco Ghost Town & Gold Mine
Abandoned town and old gold mine dating from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. All that remains is a cemetery, old cyanide tanks and building foundations.
Visitor Center & Park Grounds Hours:
Open Daily 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Park Entrance Fees:
– Adult (14+): $8.00
– Youth (7–13): $4.00
– Child (0–6): FREE
*Park Closed Thanksgiving & Christmas*
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
220 Prison Hill Rd
Yuma, AZ 85364
Here is a short YouTube video giving some history of Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park: