The Uncle Sam Steamboat was the first steamboat to run the lower portion of the Colorado River. It was launched in 1852 by James Turnbull to supply goods to Fort Yuma. Sadly the Uncle Sam sank in May 1853 and it wasn't until 1855 that travel along the river became routine.
Fort Yuma was established after the Mexican-American war in 1848 on the California side of the river, across from Yuma where the Arizona Territorial Prison would later be built. Transportation of troops and supplies through the desert was taxing and dangerous.
The Colorado Steam Navigation Company continued to grow and by 1876 there were several steamers. Sandbars were a constant problem which was solved by Captain Mellon who learned to turn the boat around and use the side paddle-wheel to dig their way through.
Travelers often slept on deck to catch any bit of breeze possible. It took up to fifteen days to make the trip up the river from the Gulf of California to Fort Yuma. That time was cut down as better boats were introduced to the river.
Today canoeing, kayaking and other water sports are popular along the Colorado River including the Colorado King paddleboat sternwheeler.
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