Historic Sites, Camp Rivers, Arizona
WW2 Gila River Japanese Relocation Center
The main landmarks were easy to find since they were just off the I-10, but the Butte Camp Monument was difficult to locate without GPS. The large monument is located a few miles southwest of the interstate through farm fields that surround the concrete ruins. The monument sites on top of a hill and across from the old water tank that supplied water to Camp Butte. Looking down to the floor of the desert you can see several cement slabs from where the original buildings used to stand.
The Gila River War Relocation Center was an internment camp built by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) for internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. It was located about 30 miles southeast of Phoenix, Arizona. The relocation center was located on the Gila River Indian Reservation, near an irrigated agricultural center. It comprised two separate camps, named "Canal" and "Butte". Construction began on May 1, 1942, over the strong objections of the reservation's American Indian government. Gila River received internees from California (Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles). In addition, it took in 2,000 people from the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas when that facility closed in 1944.
It became Arizona's fourth-largest city, with a peak population of 13,348. The official opening took place less than two months later, on July 20. Canal Camp closed on September 28, 1945. Butte Camp was shut down on November 10, 1945 and the Gila River Internment Center was officially closed on November 16, 1945. Gila River was considered one of the least oppressive camps of its kind. As the land for the camp sites is owned by the Gila River Indian Tribe and is considered sacred by them, public access to the sites is currently restricted. Although all the main structures are long gone, some artifacts such as the road grid, concrete slab foundations, manholes, cisterns, several rock alignments and dozens of small ponds remain today.