Tule Lake National Monument
Tule Lake National Monument is located in Modoc County, California. This site is a reminder of a horrible, misguided decision in US history. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, anyone with 1/16 Japanese ancestry on the west coast were forcefully removed from their homes, jobs, and families to be placed in war relocation centers, bringing only enough bedding, toiletries, and clothes that they could carry.
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Location: About 30 miles south of Klamath Falls, Oregon
Elevation: 4000 feet
Things to See: Tule Lake Segregation Center, Camp Tulelake, Visitor Center, and Museum
Lodging/Camping: None available at Tule Lake National Monument, but there is a small campground half an hour away at Lava Beds National Monument
Food: No restaurants on site
Entrance Fee: none
Park Maps: Link to park maps
Tule Lake Segregation Center
Tule Lake Segregation Center was one of ten internment camps operated by the War Relocation Authority. All ten camps were located in undesirable areas. From 1942-1946, 29,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated at Tule Lake. The site was originally built with barracks enough to hold 12,000 with a later expansion that would total housing for 15,000. However, over 18,000 Japanese Americans lived onsite at one time. Conditions were obviously overcrowded, as well as cold and primitive. The site is a dedicated National Historic Landmark, though not much remains of the hundreds of buildings.
Tule Lake Segregation Center was the one high security internement camp with a stockade and jail. Going inside the jail is only available with a guided tour. But, the jail is visible from the monument located right off Highway 139. The plaque reads:
Tule Lake was one of ten American Concentration Camps established during World War II to incarcerate 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, of whom the majority were American citizens, behind barbed wire and guard towers without charge, trial or establishment of build. These camps are reminders of how racism, economic and political exploitation, and expediency can undermine the constitutional guarantees of United States citizens and aliens alike. May the injustices and humiliation suffered here never recur.
Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds Museum
The Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds Museum has exhibits on display featuring local history including homesteading, the Japanese Internment Camp, and Modoc Nation.
Originally a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, in 1943 Camp Tulelake was used to imprison Japanese Americans who resisted and protested at Tule Lake Segregation Camp. German and Italian POW’s who worked for local farmers were housed here from 1944-1946.
Visiting Camp Tulelake can only be arranged during the limited hours of a guided ranger tour. However, there is a small parking area just off Hill Road that gives you a glimpse of the remaining buildings. There is also a bit of historical information on signage outside the gate.
I had many discouraging thoughts while standing on the site – one of them being how isolated it must have felt to be there. As if being pulled away from your family wouldn’t have been horrible enough, the environment itself felt isolated and unwelcoming.
Stubborn Twig, written by Lauren Kessler
Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family
Stubborn Twig taught me so much about this time in American history. It is a heartbreaking tale about the challenges the Yasui family faced as first, second, and third generation Japanese Americans. Much of the family’s history takes place in Hood River, Oregon.
As much as I enjoyed the story, I highly recommend listening to an audio version. The story telling method is weird and boring. It was a drag just getting through the first couple pages. So, I switched to the audio version and really got a lot out of the book.
Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway
The area of Tulelake is along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. This All-American Road travels through southern Oregon and northern California highlighting a number of volcanoes and National Parks including Crater Lake National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Lava Beds National Monument.
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Places to Visit Near Tulelake
Lassen Volcanic National Monument