Manzanar National Historic Site

Top choice in Eastern Sierra

Manzanar National Historic Site, site of World War Two-era internment camp for Japanese-Americans, guard tower

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A stark wooden guard tower alerts drivers to one of US history's darkest chapters, which unfolded on a barren, windy sweep of land some 5 miles south of Independence. Little remains of the infamous war concentration camp, a dusty square mile where more than 10,000 people of Japanese ancestry were corralled during WWII. The camp’s lone remaining building, the former high-school auditorium, houses a superb interpretive center. A visit is one of California's historical highlights and should not be missed.

Watch the 22-minute documentary, then explore the thought-provoking exhibits chronicling the stories of the families who languished here yet built a vibrant community. A self-guided 3.2-mile driving tour around the grounds usually includes a recreated mess hall and barracks, vestiges of buildings and gardens, and the haunting camp cemetery. Sites are all accessible by foot or an auto road tour.