Manzanar Internment Camp & Relocation Center

When I was growing up in the public school system I remember learning about Manzanar and thinking about the harsh lives these Japanese Americans must have lived all of those years ago. It was a crazy story to hear as a child, about the forced relocation of so many families, and here I am 18 years later being able to experience it first hand for myself in the form of this State Park. What follows is a recap of my time here, but know I am not great at writing pieces like this.

Manzanar State Park is located in the desolate and hot desert, about 15 minutes North of Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills. It is a strange and unique place where 1000’s of Japanese Americans were forced to relocate for three years during WWII. For a full history on the area I would check out this site as they can give you a lot more information then I can, but I will attempt to give you a walk through of the National Historic Site.

The Museum

The museum itself is free to the public and features a lot of great history on the area.

From photos of the living quarters to the letters that were sent to the families, they have collected a lot of the history of Manzanar.

In the back of the area there is even a wall that has all of the names of the people who lived there, and a replica of one of the patrol towers.

There is also a 15 minute movie on the people and their spirits and I recommend it highly as it really is fascinating to know what they went through.

The Barracks and Food Hall

After checking out the museum you can head to the back and see the barracks where the people lived. While it is not much to see now it gives you an idea of how small everything was with over 7 people to a small room.

There is also a replica of the kitchen that shows there was no running water in the camp and twice there were outbreaks of diarrhea from the poor sanitary conditions.

They also had this old truck next to where they rang a pot to let people know that dinner was ready.

The Driving Tour

After seeing the museum you can take the driving tour which takes you through the entire camp. Most all of the buildings have been taken down, but you can still see their outlines as well as the some of the shells of the beautiful gardens that were created by some of the people who lived there

The Memorial

The highlight of this area is the beautiful memorial in the old cemetery. While many of the bodies have been moved there are still some graves near the memorial that spotlight the people who were lost, as well as the life that was taken from so many.

One of the most beautiful things for me was the origami that was strewn all over the area where the memorial was located. This was a beautiful and traditional way to honor those that lost portions of their lives in the camp.

The inscription on the memorial says “soul consoling tower.” Its minimal beauty really provides a stark contrast to the bleak desert and the beautiful high Sierras behind it.

After seeing the memorial you can finish your driving tour and head back to the museum or on to your next stop.

Seeing a place like Manzanar is a stark reminder of some of the darker decisions in our nations history. Hearing the stories of the people that suffered here and getting a glimpse into their lives helps to put into perspective the way life really can change at any minute. I highly recommend visiting Manzanar and experiencing it as a family, remembering this history and striving to not repeat it is important as society progresses.

Check out the rest of the pictures and leave me a comment below

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  • Josh, beautiful post! I have driven by the entrance so many times and never stopped. Next time I need to.

    Your photos are gorgeous! What lens are you using? Wide-angle?

    • Thanks for the comment! I am def a huge fan of the wide angle, I was using a 10-24mm for this trip. Great lens!

  • Cristal

    Love these photos and your site. Thanks for sharing this. Hoping I get to go one day.

    • Thanks for the comment! You should check it out it is a pretty amazing place.

  • Dave Hall

    Thanks for the great pics. The story is quite touching. Sad to think so many Americans suffered at this camp. Let’s hope this was the end of such treatment.

    DAVE HALL, MA
    Asian Studies
    CSULB

    • Thanks for the comment and I am glad you enjoyed the post!

  • David Montgomery

    I love the 395 corridor, from Lake View Or. to Lone Pine Ca. And since I live in Reno it is easily accessable. Manzanar is a worthwhile stop. It is the starkness of the place that makes it so memorable.

  • Dude this place was seriously awesome. I visited over the summer and it really was beyond my expectation! nice cover of the place. More people should know about it!

  • Marty James

    My husband and I are going to Manzanar with pictures of the camp that was located at the Fairplex in Pomona Calif. My husband’s grandfather was Fire Chief at the camp. His name was Jack Tefft. Really excited to see the memorial.

    • Thanks for the comment and I hope your visit to Manzanar goes well.