Day Trip: Manzanar National Historic Site on Highway 395

Date Visited: June 20, 2010
Check current conditions: Visitor Information (760) 878-2194 ext. 2710.
  • Site Hours: Dawn to Dusk (365 days /year)
  • Interpretive Center: Summer hours (April 1 – October 31) 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Winter hours (November 1 – March 31) 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed December 25.
  • Location: Independence, CA
  • Admission: No charge.
  • Parking: free (lot)
  • Kid-Friendly: Yes
  • Dog-Friendly: No

The first stop on our Historic Highway 395 family road trip from Southern California to Oregon last June was Manzanar National Historic Site located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in between Independence, California and Lone Pine, California.  Despite having driven past it numerous times on vacations, for some reason, I had never visited this site — which, considering what a big California history buff I am, makes no sense.  So, Jeff and I opted to make this the first stop along 395, on our way to Mammoth, so that our own children could learn a bit more about this horrible era in our nation’s history.

Manzanar

Manzanar was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985 and a National Historic Site in 1992.

Manzanar National Historic Site marks the site of the former Manzanar Relocation Center, one of the ten war relocation camps into which the U.S. government forcefully interned 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.  Manzanar operated as an internment camp between March 1942 and November 1945, housing and holding more than 10,000 Japanese Americans.

The site is preserved and operated by the National Parks Service, and is open free of charge to the public from dawn to dusk every single day of the year. The ranger-staffed interpretive center is open during the day, every day except Christmas. Only three of the original camp structures remain. It is possible to experience much of the site from within the comfort of your air-conditioned car by taking the free driving tour. However, I do recommend that you get out and explore on foot the cemetery, and to get a better look at the few structures still standing. Dogs must remain on a leash and are not allowed in the cemetery.

The Park Service provides a fabulous interactive virtual tour on their website.

Manzanar

A reconstructed guard tower.

Manzanar

One of two reconstructed or preserved barracks.

Manzanar

The cemetery monument.

Manzanar

Origami birds hung along the split rain fence surrounding the cemetery, to honor those who died while interned.

Manzanar

A better look at the cemetery.

Manzanar

What's left of one of the camp buildings.

View Manzanar National Historic Site in a larger map

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