The Tule Lake National Monument in California consists of the segregation camps that were once one of ten similar institutions used to incarcerate Japanese Americans during the second World War. Many Japanese Americans were removed from their homes on the west coast of the U.S. during the war and remanded to these institutions. During its history the Tule Lake Segregation Camp held 29,840 people, with 18,700 inmates at the height of its use.
Beginning in 1974 the Tule Lake camps became the focus of annual pilgrimages by activists to raise awareness about the injustices of the camp’s existence during the war, and to call on the U.S. government for an apology.
The site became a California Historical Landmark and was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 2006. In 2008, the site was designated as one of nine sites to be part of the Work War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which highlighted important events and locations during World War II. In 2019, the three units, the Tulelake Camp, Tulelake Segregation Center and the Peninsula/Castle Rock were designated as the Tule Lake National Monument. The area, which covers 1391 acres, and is situated near the town of Tulelake has been the continued focus of pilgrimages, and provides education regarding this unfortunate episode in U.S. history.
The visitor center for the monument is located at the Tulelake - Butte Valley Fairgrounds and the camps can be visited on regular guided tours available during the summer months on Saturdays. Group tours can also be arranged on weekdays or for larger groups.
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RV Rentals in Tule Lake National Monument
Transportation in Tule Lake National Monument
The visitor center is located at the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds where you can pick up a map to visit the camp locations and arrange to join a guided tour.
Travelers on the I-5 can take the exit to U.S. 97 and head north at the town of Weed. Proceed for 53 miles then turn right onto California Highway 161. Head east on Highway 161 to Highway 139, then turn right to get to Tulelake. In Tulelake turn right onto Main Street and arrive at the fairgrounds where the visitor center is located on the right hand side.
If you are traveling from Klamath Falls, Oregon, take Oregon Highway 39 south to Tulelake, California. When you cross from Oregon into California, the highway becomes Highway 139. From Highway 139 turn right onto Main Street, the fairgrounds are on the right hand side.
If you are arriving from the west, take California Highway 299 and turn north at Bieber onto Lookout-Hackamore Road, then turn right onto California Highway 139. Proceed into Tulelake, and follow the directions to the fairgrounds as above.
If traveling from the east, turn north onto Highway 139 as you enter Tulelake, and turn left onto Main Street, the fairgrounds and visitor center are on the right.
There are signs directing visitors who arrive in Tulelake to the visitor center.
Campgrounds and parking in Tule Lake National Monument
Campsites in Tule Lake National Monument
Indian Well Campground
There is no camping at the Tule Lake National Monument, however, the nearest government run campground is just a 29 minute drive south on Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway and located just half a mile from the Lava Beds National Monument.
Indian Well Campground has 43 unserviced sites available for tenters, small trailers, and small motorhomes, up to 30 feet in length. One thing to note is that not all sites are appropriate for 30 foot RVs or trailers. Two campsites at the campground are ADA accessible, and there are ADA accessible restroom facilities in both campground loops.
There is an amphitheater at the campground where videos and nightly programs are presented. Drinking water supply is located at the campground but there are no showers or RV dump stations available.
Campsites have picnic tables and fire pits with grills. Firewood is available on site. Pets must remain leashed at all times. There are some trees providing shade in the campground but not a lot of privacy.
From the campground, a trail leads to the visitor center for Lava Beds National Monument and several lava tunnels are situated nearby.
Seasonal activities in Tule Lake National Monument
Two large wildlife refuges are located near the Tule Lake National Monument. The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is located just west of the monument, and provides habitat for waterfowl and other animals. The refuge has an auto tour route and photo blinds for photographers to use to get great shots of the numerous birds in the park.
The area has a variety of ecosystems including wetlands, marshes, dry uplands with sage brush, treed forests, farmland, and open water, that provide a variety of habitats for birds as well as mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located just south of the monument and trails in this refuge allow visitors access to the natural areas and the variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals that make this refuge their home.
Just 27 miles south of the Tule Lake Monument, visitors can visit the Lava Beds National Monument, which has over 700 caves, many of which are accessible for visitors to explore. Visitors should wear appropriate footwear, head protection, and bring a light for cave exploration.
Obtain a cave map from the Lava Beds National Monument visitor center and let someone outside your party know of your plans before you leave. Visitors should stay on cave trails, pack out garbage, and avoid touching or interfering with cave structures and geological formations.
The camps are accessible by ranger guided tours only. The tours highlight the significance of the sites, and their part in the history of World War II, as well as the history of the incarceration of Japaneses Americans.
Ranger tours are held on Saturdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and have a maximum number of 20 people per tour. Call the monument visitor center to reserve a spot on one of these summer tours. Larger groups, or groups wishing a tour on an alternate date, can contact the visitor center to make arrangements.
Tours of the Tule Lake Segregation Center begin at the Visitor Center at the fairgrounds at 10 AM, and are about two hours in length. Tours of Camp Tulelake also begin at the visitor center, at 1 PM, and last about one hour.
The wilderness refuges in the area allow waterfowl hunting during hunting season. Local outfitters hold guide permits to take hunters out in the appropriate season to harvest waterfowl.
Species that can be found in the region include many varieties of geese including the Canada goose, white fronted goose, Tule goose, and snow goose. You'll also find mallard, pintail, gadwall, widgeon, canvasback, ringneck, and bufflehead.
There are numerous trailheads in the vicinity of the Tule Lake National Monument. Just a few minutes drive south of the monument, visitors can access the Sheepy Ridge and Discovery Marsh Trails.
The Sheepy Ridge tail is a short, steep hiking trail leading to an overlook made of lava rock. The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge is visible from the observation point. The Discovery Marsh Trail is 0.7 miles with minimal elevation gain.
Hikers in the area should bring adequate footwear and lots of water on hot days. Hiking during the off season may be advisable when temperatures are less extreme.
There are several ski resorts in the mountains in the region surrounding the Tule Lake National Monument that provide excellent opportunities for downhill skiers. The Mount Shasta Ski Park is situated to the southwest about a one hour and 45 minutes drive, The Mount Ashland Ski Area is northwest, just over a two hour drive, and the Warner Canyon Ski Area is a two hour drive to the east.
You can bring your own equipment, or arrange rentals on site. These resorts have many amenities and provide stunning views of the region. Be sure to check snow and road conditions before visiting.