Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Camp Iron Mountain
A World War II installation, one of a
number established during the 1942- 44 period. Iit was located
in the Desert Training Center/California
Arizona Maneuver Area, just north of Camp Granite, almost
halfway between Indio and the Colorado River, south of Needles.
Camp Iron Mountain was primarily used by the 3d Armored Division.
Camp Iron Mountain is located on State
Route 62 just east on its junction with State Route 177. Camp
Iron Mountain is on the north side of the road while Camp
Granite is on the south. Both Camps are visible from the
highway. Camp Iron Mountain, designated as an Area of Critical
Environmental Concern in 1980, is perhaps the best known and
certainly the best preserved of all the camps. The area has been
fenced to provide protection from vehicular traffic. Despite
the ravages of time, a contour map, many rock mosaics, two alters,
and numerous rock alignments along roads and walkways have survived
In January 1942, the success of the German
Army in North Africa led the U.S. War Department to focus the
U.S. Army's training in areas with a desert terrain and environment.
On 5 February 1942, the Chief of Staff, General Headquarters,
approved the establishment of the Desert Training Center (DTC)
and designated General George S. Patton as the Center's Commanding
General. The total maneuver area encompassed 12 million acres
in Southern California and Western Arizona, making it the largest
training area in the U.S. Close to one million troops trained
in this area between 1942 and 1944.
Within the organization of the Desert Training Center, the Iron
Mountain site was established as one of the several divisional
camps. Therefore, on 24 April 1942, the Department of the Interior
transferred 34,706.55 acres to the War Department. A Public Land
Order, dated 20 June 1942, transferred another 33,200 acres.
The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California
leased three parcels to the War Department totalling .954 acres
in the midst of these public lands. Hence, a total of 67,907.504
acres was acquired for Camp Iron Mountain. The camp was initially
established during the Spring of 1942, occupied by the 2nd Armored
Division of the U.S. Army under the command of General George
S. Patton. Throughout the two years of operations at Iron Mountain
Divisional Camp, five armored divisions and a number of other
units were located at the camp. Temporary improvements consisted
of 15 showers, 26 latrines, 113 tent frames, an amphitheater,
one 4,000 gallon elevated metal water storage tank, two 3,000
gallon elevated metal water storage tank, and four centrifugal
water pumps. The only permanent improvements were a chapel, an
altar, and a graded contour simulation map which depicted the
Desert Training Center area. At least six firing ranges were
located near the camp. However, only one portion of the range
is within the former boundaries of the camp.
Camp Granite is located on the southern side of State Route 62.
This was another divisional camp which was part of the Desert
Training Center. This camp provided additional firing ranges
and maneuver areas. Camp Granite is located on the site acquired
for Camp Iron Mountain but is considered as a separate DERP-FUDS
(Defense Environmental Restoration Program - Formerly Used Defense
By March 1943, the North Africa Campaign was in its final stages
and the primary mission of the DTC changed. By the middle of
1943, the troops who originally came for desert training maneuvers,
were now deployed worldwide. Therefore, to reflect that change
in mission, the name of the Center was changed to the California-Arizona
Maneuver Area (CAMA). The CAMA was to serve as a Theater of Operations
to train combat troops, service units and staffs under conditions
similar to those which might be encountered overseas.
The CAMA was enlarged to include both a Communications Zone and
Combat Zone, approximately 350 miles wide and 250 miles long.
Thousands of soldiers and equipment arrived by train at the Freda
railroad siding as maneuvers continued at Camp Iron Mountain.
Toward the end of 1943, the need for service units for overseas
duty increased dramatically, leaving little or no support for
the CAMA. Without adequate service unit support, commanders made
the decision in January of 1944 to suspend operation of the CAMA.
The entire CAMA was declared surplus on 30 March 1944 and the
Army formally announced that the CAMA was to be closed by 1 May
The Camp Iron Mountain site was declared surplus on 16 March
1944. The leases with the Metropolitan Water District for .954
acres had already been terminated on 31 October 1942. The public
land owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior, totalling
67,906.55 acres, was retransferred to the Department of the Interior
between 1947 and 1949. Activities on the CAMA nominally continued
until the 1950s while equipment and materials were collected
and shipped and decontamination squads searched out and destroyed
CUrrently the entire encampment area is surrounded by a four
foot-high fence with turnstiles added to permit pedestrian access.
The original roadway network has deteriorated a great deal due
to the scouring of erosion and the emergence of natural vegetation.
Some portions of this roadway network are now impassable, and
vehicular access to the network is now prohibited.
The chapel and altar at Camp Iron Mountain remain in good condition.
Maintenance has been rou~inely done to stabilize the outer edges
of these structures. The 200 x 125 foot contour map has deteriorated
appreciably. A wooden bridge and walkway, built to permit viewing
of this map, has collapsed. Only several wooden supports and
some lumber remains. Most of the wooden signs which identified
camps and significant features of the center are no longer legible.
The concrete protective surface used to hold the topographic
features in shape has been broken. As a result, erosion has taken
its toll on the map surface. A ten-foot-high fence currently
surrounds the map and no access is permitted.
Other remnants of the camp include many rock designs of military
insignia and acres of stone work lining the camp roads and walkways.
Throughout the camp, many artifacts of camp life can be found
including communication wire, batteries, eating utensils, ration
cans and bottles.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) placed warning signs on the
project site. However, the signs were removed several years ago.
No incident reports have actually been handled on the Camp Iron
Mountain site. On 15 March 1980, however, -an anti-tank mine
was discovered approximately five miles to the northwest of the
67,907 acre site. Site preservation and protection are primary
concerns of the BLM; they do not want any surface disturbance
at the encampment area site. Unless there is a clear and present
danger, the BLM does not desire any restoration activities on
this encampment area. The BLM requested that they be notified
of any contemplated activity in this area.
According to a BLM report, six firing range areas are located
near Camp Iron Mountain. However, only one small portion of one
firing range is within the boundaries of the camp. One of the
firing ranges is located in the Cadiz Valley area west of the
Iron Mountains. The southeast portion of this firing range extends
into the northwestern boundary of Camp Iron Mountain. Another
firing range is located near Palen Pass in the Palen Mountains
south of the project site; a third is located in the Kilbec Hills
west of Fishel; a fourth is located on the east side of the Iron
Mountains and west of Danby Dry Lake; a fifth is located in the
Ward Valley area by the Old Woman Mountains north of Milligan;
a sixth is located to the northeast of Danby Dry Lake and east
of Saltmarsh and Sablon, California.
A majority of the project site property is comprised of scrubcovered
foothills currently owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior
under the control of tne Bureau of Land Management. A portion
of the site near the Iron Mountain Pumping Plant is owned by
the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Source: Los Angeles District,
US Army Corps of Engineers