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All roads lead to Yuma this weekend
The area's rich history will come to life with the Roads to Yuma Historical Trails Symposium to be held here over the weekend featuring speakers, slide show and tours.
Interest in the event, to be held at the Shilo Inn in the Arizona Room downstairs from the restaurant, has exceeded expectations. However, a few seats are still available for those who want to learn more about the many trails that led people over the centuries to the Yuma Crossing of the Colorado River.
The hope was to generate some interest in the history of the area and efforts to preserve and protect what remains of those early trails followed by explorers, soldiers, gold seekers and emigrants, said John Krizek, a Prescott resident who is chairing the symposium being hosted by the Oregon-California Trails Association.
From 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, a series of speakers will trace the steps of Father Kino and his discovery of the route from Sonora to Yuma, Juan Bautista de Anza and his trek to establish a colony in California, the Mexican War traffic of the 1840s and the incredible cast of characters and pioneers who passed through on their way to California during the Gold Rush.
At 1:30 p.m., Tina Clark, the city of Yuma's historian, will present a slide show on historic Yuma. Tours will be held Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Most of the tours are sold out, but room still remains for a tour of the Colorado River.
The luncheon and banquet also are sold out, barring any cancellations, but those interested can sit in to hear the keynote speakers, Krizek said.
Advance registration is closed, but those who want to join the event can register in the hotel's lobby beginning at 3 p.m. Friday. Cost of the symposium is $45. There is an additional charge for the remaining tour.
Krizek also encourages people to check out the information that will be available in the Shilo Hotel lobby Friday afternoon and early Saturday morning. In addition to displays by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, the Southwest chapter of OCTA will be on hand with maps and information on trails in the area.
Krizek said the symposium will include an effort to energize and reorganize the local chapter so there can be more events in the area.
OCTA, based in Independence, Mo., is "dedicated to what's left of the historic trails," Krizek said.
In the past, he said, there's been a lot of focus on the trails that took pioneers across the more northerly parts of the county, but the Southwest trails have failed to get much attention. "A significant number of travelers took the Southern routes. But those routes haven't gotten the same degree of recognition in the scope of the National Trails system to protect and honor that legacy."
Then OCTA hit on the idea of holding a symposium in Yuma to draw attention to the resources of the Southwest, Krizek said.
"The more people who get interested, the better," he said.
Assisting with the symposium are the Rio Colorado Chapter of the Arizona Historical Society, the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area and Yuma Visitors Bureau.
Not everyone may care on what side of a rock outcropping a wagon train passed 150 years ago, Krizek said.
But "rut nuts" want to be able to stand on the exact spot where pioneers actually traveled as they pursued adventure and a dream of a new life in the American frontier West, he said.
For more information about OCTA, visit www.octa-trails.org.