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Utah's West Desert and Topaz Internment Camp

Nate J.




Took the bike out through Utah's West desert today! Ran out West on the Pony Express trail then South to the Topaz Internment Camp Northwest of Delta. There are definitely some middle-of-nowhere locations out in the West desert!




Most of the Pony Express Trail can barely be called "off-road" as it's a hard packed dirt road with a gravel skim in places. Most of the road can be ridden at 60 Mph or more, but there are parts in the passes that slow you down into the 20's. The desert has a beauty all it's own. It's not the dense pine forests of the Pacific North West, or the Canyon lands of Southern Utah, but it certainly holds its own appeal. One can ride for a couple hours and be, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. Not many people come out this way, so once your out you're on your own! Watch that gas gauge, never let it drop below a half tank, and bring LOTS of water in case you get stuck out - there's no water out here.

I Finally found the Topaz Internment Camp, and was super fortunate that the Historical Society was there giving a private tour to some families with roots in the camp. For those of you that don't know, there were 10 hastily built internment camps erected around the US in the 40's where Japanese American's families were held during the early 40's - you can read more about the camps here on Wikipedia. This camp is in the middle of nowhere. The associate museum is in Delta Utah, and I always had the impression that the camp was just on the outskirts of Delta - Nope! It's a good 40 minute ride outside of town in the desert. Absolutely nothing around it.

The tour was being given to two gentlemen that were born in the camp and their families, and fortunately for me they invited me to join their tour. Wow... A very sobering location that reminds us that even what we call the "good ol' USA" certainly has its faults. I was amazed that the entire camp is completely gone - torn down as if to try to erase an evil past. The only signs left that it ever existed are a few stone trails between flat spots in the earth where structures once stood, along with a few random glass shards, chunks of wood, and the like. I didn't take a lot of pictures, as the mood of the tour was very somber. Pictures didn't seem very appropriate, but I did sneak a couple.

All that is left of the Buddhist temple at the site - a trail of stones around where the structure once stood:


A rock garden near the Buddhist temple:



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Fascinating!  There is a museum at Manzanar here in CA off hwy 395 where you can see some of the original buildings, guard towers, etc...


In college for a class in Asian American Psychology, I interviewed my neighbor of Japanese descent who grew up here in Fountain Valley and whose father was the first mayor there.  He described the family having to hastily sell all their land and leave everything to go to Manzanar.  Luckily, some friends of theirs helped them in getting most of their land back and they resumed being a big part of the local community.  Kind of hard to imagine these days.

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Yes it is hard to imagine. The people I spoke to on this tour told me that after the camp closed most of the families had nowhere to go and simply stayed in the camp. This went on for some time and at some point they were forced to leave - still, many with nowhere to go. It was a sad state of affairs that's for sure. Forced into the camp, and then forced out. Crazy.

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Thanks for sharing! I agree, the dez has its own, rugged beauty... One thing I miss being out east is vast expanses of unobstructed views. Vegitation is so thick here and getting above it is rare.

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