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Great Diamond Hunt continues with confluence
The Great Yuma County Diamond Hunt is under way! The Yuma Sun is publishing one story per day for seven days, highlighting the historical significance of one of the locations that represents Yuma’s culture, which are featured at the new Centennial Heritage Area. There is one glass diamond hidden at each location.
For a chance to find today's diamond, check out the Yuma Sun's Twitter account (www.twitter.com/yumasun), which will release the latitude GPS coordinate, and the Yuma County Twitter account (www.twitter.com/yumacountyaz), which will release the longitudinal coordinates. The first person to find the glass diamond gets to keep it. Readers, be sure to check out the Yuma Sun and Yuma County Twitter accounts for today's GPS coordinates — and good luck!
The confluence of the Gila and Colorado rivers has long been a favorite recreation spot. Located just outside the Yuma city limits, it is where the two rivers merge near Avenue 4-1/2E.
But the rivers and the confluence are much more than a recreation spot. Long before recreationists, with their river float tubes, swarmed to the area, the quarter-mile-wide junction of the Colorado and Gila rivers became a gateway for prospectors rushing westward. During the Gold Rush in the mid-19th century, thousands of hopeful prospectors rushed to the spot to ford the river.
Throughout history, the demand for ways to cross the Colorado River led to booming ferry and steamboat businesses in the early days of Yuma.
The rivers have also served as a lifeline to the people of Yuma County. To live comfortably, humans need a reliable source of water, but water in the desert can be scarce, causing rivers to dry up.
“People learned long ago that by building a dam across a river, they could hold back some of the river's water and store enough to meet their needs through a dry season,” as the book “Exploring Earth” explains.
In the early 1900s, the limited availability of water also limited development in the western United States. Officials believed damming the Colorado River, which flows with winter rains and snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains, would ensure a steady water supply to Southwestern states.
The Gila River also had similar challenges. Flow in the lower portion of the river was intermittent, with water flowing in the spring due to rain and melting snow and in the summer after the monsoons but drying up during other times. Now dams along this river control water flow, a boon to the agriculture industry.
The Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation District returns surplus irrigation water to the Gila River channel near Dome. This influx of water supports flow to the confluence with the Colorado River, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
Laguna Dam, located 13 miles northeast of Yuma, was the first large-scale dam built on the Colorado River. Jose Maria Redondo, considered the father of modern-day agriculture in Yuma, had built smaller dams on the Gila River.
Laguna Dam was built in 1909 to divert water to agricultural fields, allowing year-round farming.
Eventually, Imperial Dam, described as a more stable dam, was built upstream and replaced Laguna Dam. The Imperial Dam, built in 1938, diverts water from the Colorado River into the All American Canal in California and the Gila Gravity Main Canal in Arizona. It supplies the city of Yuma, the Yuma Valley and the Quechan Indian Reservation.
Senator Wash Dam and Reservoir was completed in 1966 to improve water scheduling of the Colorado River by storing part of the river flow upstream of Imperial Dam when not needed.
The dam is used for hydroelectric power and serves as a recreational area about 60 acres in size.
Mara Knaub can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.