Poston Memorial Monument
Poston Memorial Monument / ©Scott Harrison
July/August 2016

Memorials in the Sands

An adventure-packed bonanza of World War II history

BYMonica Surfaro Spigelman
If a weekend trip laced with haunting wartime history sounds intriguing, journey through the scenic La Paz County backcountry to uncover Arizona’s World War II legacy.
 
Poston Memorial Monument
Begin your weekend traveling north along Indian Route 1, north of Ehrenberg and the Interstate. At mile marker 26, you’ll find the Poston Memorial Monument, a graceful sculpture towering 30 feet over its base and shaped like a Japanese stone lantern. The monument was constructed in 1992 to mark the site of the relocation camp where approximately 17,000 people of Japanese ancestry, mostly U.S. citizens, were interned from May 1942 to November 1945. Covering 71,000 acres, the Poston Relocation Center was the largest of 10 internment camps created by the U.S. War Department.
 
The Poston Memorial Monument also is dedicated to soldiers from the Poston camps who served and were killed in action, as well as to Colorado River Indian tribes on whose lands the monument stands.
 
Play in Parker
Take a detour from your WWII history sojourn to visit Parker, Arizona. About 16 minutes north of the Poston Monument, Parker is an off-road hideaway with scenic trails, old mines, and ghost towns, all of which make it a great weekend destination. Stop for homestyle eats at the in-town CrossRoads Café or, riverside, at the Pirates Den. 
 
At this gateway for water sports and fishing along the Colorado River and Lake Havasu, another can’t-miss attraction is the grandiose art deco Parker Dam. Completed in 1938, this concrete gravity-arch dam is elegant and massive, and the deepest dam in the world, with 234 feet of its 320-foot structure below the original riverbed. 
 
Make a brief trip into town to visit the tiny Colorado River Indian Tribes Museum, where friendly tribal curators put into context the diverse reservation of Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi, and Navajo cultures. 
 
Bouse Bound
After leaving Parker, head southeast on State Route 95 South and continue straight on State Route 72 East to Bouse, an old mining town with a wartime legacy. The town became a military camp in 1942 for General George S. Patton Jr., who brought troops here for top-secret training. The Bouse Assay Office, built in 1902, now houses a museum with artifacts from the secret camp, as well as several tanks and mining memorabilia. In town on Plomosa Road, you can visit “Sandy,” the M60 (Patton) tank, along with a row of stone memorial markers erected to honor the tank battalions from Camp Bouse. Monument Row is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. 
 
If you stay on Plomosa Road and head back to the interstate and closer to Quartzsite, look for WWII rock alignments that once directed pilots to temporary training and night bombing practice areas.
 
Whatever your spirit for exploring, this trek lays claim to incredible Arizona wartime discoveries. 
MONICA SURFARO SPIGELMAN enjoys discovering the nooks and crannies of the Southwest’s nature, arts, and cultures.
Bouse Assay Office / ©Leigh Spigelman
Bouse Assay Office / ©Leigh Spigelman
Parker Dam / ©Leigh Spigelman
Parker Dam / ©Leigh Spigelman
If You Go
Preserve: North of Poston is Ahakhav Tribal Preserve, a 1,253-acre wilderness area and 3.5-acre park. It’s a sanctuary for the Colorado River Basin’s native endangered plants and animals. 
 
Fun fact: Take a scenic parking pullout about 10 miles southwest of Bouse and follow a trail to glimpse (it’s not easy to spot) a large rock drawing of the “Bouse Fisherman,” a rare example of Southwest intaglio rock art.
 
 
Explore Arizona
Find out about more Arizona trips by visiting AAA.com or calling your local AAA Travel agent toll-free at 1-888-870-9392.
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