Located just a mile outside the small town of Granada, Colorado, near the Kansas border, a site that once wrongfully imprisoned thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II will soon commemorate that history by becoming a park in the US National Park system.

US President Joe Biden signed the Amache National Historic Site Act which will allow the area of the former Grenada Relocation Center — called Camp Amache by the thousands of Japanese Americans who were taken there against their will at the height of World War II —  to become Amache National Historic Site and part of the national park system.

"Designating the Amache site as part of our National Parks system is a way to honor survivors and descendants of Camp Amache who continue to share their stories, help us learn about their experiences, and ensure we never repeat this painful chapter in our nation's history," the White House said in a tweet announcing the historical site's new designation. 

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The site is currently cared for by the Amache Preservation Society, which was founded by Grenada High School principal John Hopper, and consists of volunteer students from the high school. Students care for the site and travel through Kansas and Colorado educating people about Japanese internment camps and Amache's role in that dark chapter of American history. 

More than two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the relocation of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast of the United States. The War Relocation Authority built 10 incarceration camps inland in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. 

History of the Camp Amache

The Grenada Relocation Center began construction in June 1942 and opened on August 27, 1942. 

According to the Amache Preservation Society's website, the camp would eventually cover one square mile and consist of 29 "blocks" of barracks, with each barrack consisting of six apartments.  Each apartment would have a coal-burning stove, army cots, one light bulb in the center of each room, and a pad or blanket.

But, when the first Japanese Americans arrived in August 1942, the construction was not complete. It only had two blocks of barracks, a mess hall and one lavatory. APS states that the families decorated their homes through their own ingenuity, making furniture from scrap lumber from around the camp. 

At its peak in 1943, the camp held more than 7,318 Japanese Americans against their will.

Camp Amache officially closed on October 15, 1945. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 18, 1994, and designated a National Historic landmark on February 10, 2005.

When will Amache become a National Park?

This is only the first step toward becoming a national park. Though it is authorized to become part of the national parks system, much more work needs to be done in terms of land acquisition (the land is currently owned by the Town of Grenada) and planning with stakeholders to establish it as one. 

"The acquisition process is anticipated to take approximately two years, pending authorization of acquisition funding to establish legal land descriptions, required environmental site assessments, and agreements on maintaining the town's water system," the NPS stated on its website. 

When it is established, Amache National Historic Site will become the 424th park in the National Park System.

camp amache
The information board for visitors by the restored barrack at Camp Amache in Granada, Colorado.  © Denver Post via Getty Images

Can I visit Amache National Historical Site now? 

Yes. The historical site is open during daylight hours and is not gated.  

Visitors can currently see a restored water tower and barrack, foundations of the former barracks, a monument and a cemetery. There are panels visitors can read about the site but the Amache Preservation Society also has a self-guided driving tour as well as a downloadable audio tour.

If you are searching for a loved one or ancestor who was housed at Amache, the University of Denver has an interactive website to help you look up which barrack in which they were housed. 

Visitors should be advised there are currently no restrooms at the site. It can also get very hot during the heat of the day, so plan your visit for the cooler hours of the early morning or early evening. 

Separately, there is an Amache Museum located in downtown Granada. Currently, you must schedule a private tour in advance to enter the museum as students from the high school assist with those tours. 

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