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Best things to do in Yuma: Don’t miss the colorful new Hull Mine tour

Yuma just has a way of doing things right. A renaissance began over a decade ago when the city revitalized its riverfront. Trash dumps were cleaned up and replaced with parks, beaches, multi-use pathways and restored wetland habitat. The downtown was revitalized and agritourism outings were launched. And the city has continued to unveil new attractions and events every year. Here’s what to see in 2018 in this surprising burg.

Colorful new attraction: Hull Mine

Yuma’s newest attraction is one of its gaudiest — a vibrant, colorful display hidden away in a deep, dark hole.

The Hull Mine runs beneath the stark Castle Dome Mountains north of Yuma. It’s one of 300 mines gouged from the Earth in this lonely corner of Arizona. The old silver mine dates to the 1880s and was purchased in 2014 by Allen and Stephanie Armstrong, owners of the adjacent Castle Dome Mine Museum.

Their original plan for the Hull was to do what they did at Castle Dome, preserve a slice of Arizona history by restoring old buildings and salvaging equipment and materials. Everything changed once they got a look at the wonders inside the mine.

In January, tours into the Hull Mine began. Visitors are driven down the main passageway to a wide corridor, 100 feet below the surface. From there it’s a short stroll to the end of one drift. At first the high walls look no different than any others towering overhead. But when the lights are clicked off and UV lights hum to life, it’s only seconds before the rocks begin to bleed color.

Out of the darkness leaps a Jackson Pollock design. Vivid hues streak across the walls, forming a wild abstract display. Blues, reds, yellows, oranges, greens and some colors that have not yet been named spread up and down.

A visitor admires the display of fluorescent minerals on the Hull Mine tour in Yuma.

It may seem like magic, but it’s simply the result of fluorescent and phosphorescent minerals that emit light when exposed to ultraviolet radiation. If the mineral continues to glow after the light has been removed, this is called phosphorescence. The minerals setting the walls ablaze at the Hull are calcite, fluorite, scheelite, willemite, barite, hydrozincite, aragonite and selenite.

It’s like being inside a kaleidoscope. These are fossilized fireworks, neon for cavemen. This is a snow globe filled not with the white stuff but with the northern lights. This is the graffiti of angels.

The fluorescent wall of the Hull Mine tour in Yuma blazes to life when UV lights are clicked on.

After leaving the dazzling color show behind, there’s still the rest of the mine to tour. Walk back down the passageway to where an exposed vein of silver galena streaks the ceiling. Other corridors are filled with artifacts left behind, including tools, goods and blacksmith equipment. Another drift leads to the Desperadoes Hideaway. Instead of fleeing the area after a shootout or robbery, local badmen commonly hid out in abandoned mine shafts.

Corridors are wide and well lit with good ventilation. It’s easy to forget you’re 100 feet underground. New concrete floors eliminate the dusty conditions common to old mines and make it easy to get around.

Ore cars once hauled precious minerals out of the Hull Mine.

After exiting the mine, visitors can explore the restored and re-created buildings on the surface. Ore cars line rusted tracks. A few townsfolk are gathered about so don’t be surprised to witness shootouts and knife fights. The re-enactors are also happy to share stories about what life was like during the hard times. Back at the museum, lunch is provided and visitors are welcome to explore the rest of the historic mining camp.

Castle Dome Mine Museum features more than 50 buildings, filled to the rafters with artifacts. There’s a restored stamp mill, cemetery and a self-guided hiking trail, all in the shadow of rugged mountains. This is Arizona’s most comprehensive exploration of daily life in a mining town.

Getting there: To reach Castle Dome Mine Museum from Yuma, take State Route 95 north to Castle Dome Road (mile marker 55), then travel northeast about 10 miles. The first 3 miles are paved, the rest is graded gravel that can be managed in a passenger car. It’s open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily from Oct. 14-April 30. After that, call for reservations.

Hull Mine tours: Reservations are required; children under 12 are not permitted. Hard hats are provided as well as eye protection for viewing UV-lighted areas. Three-hour tours cost $75 per person and include admission to Castle Dome Mine Museum and lunch. Admission to the Castle Dome museum alone is $15.

Details: 928-920-3062, www.enchantedcavern.org.

Colorado River State Historic Park
The Colorado River Historic State Park in Yuma protects some of Arizona’s oldest buildings on a patch of high ground above the floodplain.

Formerly known as Yuma Quartermaster Depot, the 10-acre property perched on a bluff underwent a rebranding in 2017 and now undertakes the critical mission of telling the past, present and future of the Colorado River.

Some of Arizona’s oldest buildings are found on this patch of high ground. Each structure is filled with artifacts and displays. The Quartermaster Depot is still represented. But the scope has widened.

There’s an impressive exhibit on the Yuma Siphon, a massive tunnel under the Colorado River that first delivered irrigation water to the valley in 1912 and still operates today right next to the park. This engineering marvel allowed Yuma’s agricultural industry to flourish. Today, Yuma grows more than 90 percent of the nation’s leafy vegetables consumed November to March.

A small theater shows several short films throughout the day that examine the river from various perspectives. A wall-size chart tracks where every drop of river water goes. Other displays examine the benefits and environmental impacts of dams.

One striking thing about the exhibits is that they ask almost as many questions as they answer. It’s clear the goal is to spark a dialogue about the stresses faced by the Colorado. This snowmelt-fed river is a vital source of water for 40 million people and that number continues to grow.

Details: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Closed Mondays from June through September. 201 N. Fourth Ave., Yuma. $6, $3 for ages 7-13. 928-783-0071, azstateparks.com/colorado-river.

Sanguinetti House Museum
A charming 19th century adobe surrounded by lush gardens now serves as the Sanguinetti House Museum in Yuma.

A charming 19th century adobe surrounded by lush gardens was once the home to E. F. Sanguinetti, Yuma’s “merchant prince.” Guided tours combine history and storytelling. This winter’s featured exhibit is “River Lore: Tales from the Narrows,” conjuring the days when big paddlewheelers steamed up and down the raging river. The exhibit introduces visitors to many characters from Yuma’s past. Tours are offered hourly and guests can even linger in the lavish parlor to enjoy a cup of tea.

Details: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. 240 S. Madison Ave. $6, free for age 12 and younger. 928-782-1841, www.arizonahistoricalsociety.org/museums/yuma.

Farmer’s Wife Dinners
Agricultural outings are a popular visitor attraction in Yuma.

Yuma specializes in tours designed to educate visitors about the origins of their food. The newest of these are the Farmer’s Wife Dinners. Hosted at Tina’s Cocina in historic St. Paul’s Cultural Center, these one-of-a-kind cooking events celebrate fresh produce, family traditions and recipes. Dinner, wine and beer are included in these new events on Jan. 22, Feb. 5, March 12 and 19. Cost is $55 per person.

Other agritourism outings include the popular Field to Feast Tours, Date Night Dinners and Savor Yuma events. Call or visit the website for dates and prices.

Details: 928-7830071, www.visityuma.com.

Find the reporter at www.rogernaylor.com. Or follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RogerNaylorinAZ or Twitter @AZRogerNaylor.

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