More background info: For general background information please see this separate chapter:
Amache was one of the ten such camps, established in August 1942 and officially called the Granada War Relocation Center – after the small town it was located near. The informal name it soon became better known as derives from the first name of local Native American (Cheyenne) chief’s daughter called Amache Prowers, and Prowers is also the name of the county the camp was located in … it’s a loose connection, but there you go.
Although Amache Camp was smaller than other such facilities it still held well over 7000 inmates at its peak – for comparison: present-day Granada has a population of only about 500–600.
The main camp itself covered an area of about a square mile (2.5 square kilometres) and was surrounded by large tracts of agricultural land, which provided most of the camp’s inhabitants with work. The main camp consisted of 29 blocks, each with a dozen or so of simple wooden barracks serving as living quarters, plus various communal, administrative and other buildings. Barracks were shared by several families and had no partitions so there was little privacy. Bathhouses and latrines were shared too. The barracks had no running water, minimal lighting and only a coal-fired oven for the harsh winters. The camp had its own newspaper, school, clinic, shops, police and fire department as well as a cemetery.
Camp guards were stationed just outside the main camp, which was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Armed guards manned several watchtowers as well as the gates, where anybody wanting to enter or leave had to present valid paperwork for doing so. Wares going in or out were also checked.
Amache’s agricultural production actually went beyond serving the self-sufficiency of the camp so that surpluses could go to the US military. Out of the ten WRA camps
Amache also supplied the largest number of volunteers, over 900 in total, who went to fight for the USA
; and many distinguished themselves in battle and were awarded medals.
After the camp’s closure in October 1945, its buildings were removed or demolished, leaving only a street grid and empty foundations. Initial efforts at commemorating the by then almost forgotten site began in the 1970s, and yearly pilgrimages by former detainees and their descendants started in 1976. Yet, the site wasn’t entered in the National Register of Historic Places until 1994, and it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
A society for the preservation of Amache had already been formed in 1990 by a Granada High School group that still looks after the site and museum (see below
) and runs an excellent informative website (amache.org).
What there is to see: Of the camp itself virtually nothing remains, except for some concrete foundations where buildings once stood and a grid of dusty gravel roads. However, some structures have been restored and various information panels have been erected.
At the entrance by the main road going past the former camp, a sign points out its location. Nearby is also an official historical marker on a standing stone. It comes with a very short general information text in English and Japanese. In addition information panels recounting what happened at this place have been put up – it’s a set of three, each protected by a little roof (hence the Amache website refers to them as “kiosks”).
can be found at other spots of significance, and at the southern end of the former camp’s area a few reconstructions
can be seen. First there is a single reconstructed barrack
modelled after the original living quarter barracks of Amache. The society that looks after the site is in the process of furnishing this barrack to give an impression of what the living conditions were like. Nearby is a also a reconstruction of one of the guard watchtower
s. And at the south-easternmost corner of the camp perimeter the iconic water tower
has been reconstructed too. The actual water tank at the top is indeed original. It had been moved to a farm in the area and was donated to the Amache Preservation Society in 2010. It now sits atop a tower that was reconstructed from some original material that was discovered dumped on the grounds of the site 60 years after the camp’s closure!
Outside the south-western corner of the camp grounds is the cemetery, which has been reworked, fenced in and lavishly landscaped by the Amache Preservation Society too. Here yet more memorial stones can be found.
In the centre of the nearby town of Granada is also a dedicated Amache Museum
that not only tells the story of the “relocation” programme in general and the history of Amache camp in particular, but also has a few remarkable artefacts, mostly donated by former inmates or their families. This includes clothes and other personal belongings such an original suitcase one of the internees arrived with at the camp in 1942. Also in the museum is a scale model of the whole main camp of Amache that gives a good impression of how very closely these sites visually resembled the Nazis
’ concentration camps
. (Although their nature was of course quite different.)
Thanks to the museum and the recent reconstructions, Amache is now one of the better commodified memorials to the Japanese American Relocation history.
You can prepare for your visit by exploring the Amache Preservation Society’s excellent website (amache.org), but as always actually going there adds the bonus of place authenticity that is so crucial in dark tourism in general.
On Country Road 23, ca. 1.2 miles (2 km) south-west of the small town of Granada in the high prairie land of south-eastern Colorado, USA
, not far from the border with neighbouring Kansas.
Google Maps locators:
Access and costs: remote and requiring a car, free
Details: The site is quite remote in a forlorn agricultural corner of Colorado and hence only accessible by car. From Denver the drive takes about four hours. Granada is on Highway 385/50 towards Kansas. From Granada, Country Road 23 5/10 leads to the original location of the camp south-west of the town. The museum is at 205 E. Goff Avenue in the centre of Granada (and no longer at No. 109, where it is still marked as being located on Google Maps! It’s now in the building to the east of the intersection of Goff Ave with S Irving St).
There are few tourist facilities in Granada and no accommodation. For the nearest lodging options you’d have to drive to Holly (10 miles/16 km east of Granada) or Lamar (18 miles/29 km west of Granada).
At the original site of the former camp you can drive the longer distances. When exploring off the given tracks/paths beware of rattlesnakes in the thick undergrowth. Wear closed shoes and long trousers. Best to use a walking stick too to test the ground and scare away any snakes. The weather can be harsh here too, with the summer midday heat often reaching well over 40 degrees centigrade, and in winter it can be bitterly cold and snowy. So prepare/plan accordingly. Severe thunder- and hailstorms are also a common occurrence, so do check the forecasts before heading there.
The museum is normally open in the summer only for five days in the week (exact times are not given); at other times of the year it is only open on demand. Schedule a visit well in advance by contacting amache(at)usa.com.
Admission to the museum as well as the original site is free.
Time required: depends on how much of the original site you want to explore, but I would reckon about an hour should suffice if you’re driving. Exploring the whole site on foot would take significantly longer. The museum could be done in perhaps half an hour or a bit more.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
Nothing in the immediate vicinity, but a couple of other dark sites can be found a manageable distance away. The most significant is Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
, run by the National Park Service. It commemorates a massacre of 100–600 Native Americans by the Cavalry in 1864, one of the many inglorious chapters in America’s history of dealing with the indigenous population (cf. also Wounded Knee
). The Sand Creek Massacre Site is located at 1301 Maine St, Eads CO 81036; open Thursdays to Mondays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, admission free.
Furthermore there are two monuments related to mining. The first is the Ludlow Monument that commemorates a massacre of strikers by the Colorado National Guard in 1914 (on the corner of country roads 44 and 61.5); the other is the Hastings Mine Disaster Monument (a bit further west on country road 44) that commemorates the worst mining disaster in Colorado’s history, namely a fire that killed ca. 120 miners.
See also under USA
Combinations with non-dark destinations: The Amache Preservation Society website has a few suggestions (amache.org/other-attractions/), mainly to do with the Santa-Fe Trail, wildlife and Native American history.
All photos courtesy (and copyright) of Rick Sheridan
- Amache 1 - sign at the actual site
- Amache 2 - Marker stone at the original site
- Amache 3 - museum in downtown Granada
- Amache 4 - model of the camp at the museum
- Amache 5 - traditional Japanese clothing on display at the mueum
- Amache 6 - personal belongings of an inmate on display at the museum