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Yuma County

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Yuma County (1889) borders on Nebraska and Kansas and takes its name from the town of Yuma, the first county seat. Wide, high prairie is broken by the sometimes dry Arikaree River and two forks of the Republican River. The Republican's north fork flows through Wray, and its south fork fills the county's largest body of water, Bonny Reservoir, in the southeast corner. Center-pivot irrigation systems fed by the Ogallala Aquifer have made Yuma County one of the nation's top producers of corn, sorghum grain, soybeans, sugar beets, and wheat. The county is also known for dry-land farming, cattle and hogs, the Beecher Island battlefield, pheasant hunting, and prairie chickens, whose spring mating dance rivals any nightclub exhibition.

Evidence of early Native American habitation was revealed by “blow-outs,” wind-enhanced erosion that was most severe during the drought years of the Dust Bowl. Etienne B. Renaud, a Parisian archaeologist, first classified and reported on the early, parallel-flaked projectile points he named Yuma points. The 1973 discovery of a well-organized bison butchering site in bottomland along the Arikaree River led a Smithsonian Institution anthropologist to date Paleo-Indian occupation back more than 10,000 years.

Despite optimistic names like Happyville (1910–1922) and Heartstrong (1921–1940), at least forty towns are dead or dying. The town of Yuma and the county seat, Wray, are holding their own in this county of about 9,000 people.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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