Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Camp Iron Mountain
A World War II installation, one of a number established during the 1942- 44 period. Iit was located in the Desert Training Center/California Arizona Maneuver Area, just north of Camp Granite, almost halfway between Indio and the Colorado River, south of Needles. Camp Iron Mountain was primarily used by the 3d Armored Division.
Camp Iron Mountain is located on State Route 62 just east on its junction with State Route 177. Camp Iron Mountain is on the north side of the road while Camp Granite is on the south. Both Camps are visible from the highway. Camp Iron Mountain, designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern in 1980, is perhaps the best known and certainly the best preserved of all the camps. The area has been fenced to provide protection from vehicular traffic. Despite the ravages of time, a contour map, many rock mosaics, two alters, and numerous rock alignments along roads and walkways have survived
Corps of Engineers History
In January 1942, the success of the German Army in North Africa led the U.S. War Department to focus the U.S. Army's training in areas with a desert terrain and environment. On 5 February 1942, the Chief of Staff, General Headquarters, approved the establishment of the Desert Training Center (DTC) and designated General George S. Patton as the Center's Commanding General. The total maneuver area encompassed 12 million acres in Southern California and Western Arizona, making it the largest training area in the U.S. Close to one million troops trained in this area between 1942 and 1944.

Within the organization of the Desert Training Center, the Iron Mountain site was established as one of the several divisional camps. Therefore, on 24 April 1942, the Department of the Interior transferred 34,706.55 acres to the War Department. A Public Land Order, dated 20 June 1942, transferred another 33,200 acres. The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California leased three parcels to the War Department totalling .954 acres in the midst of these public lands. Hence, a total of 67,907.504 acres was acquired for Camp Iron Mountain. The camp was initially established during the Spring of 1942, occupied by the 2nd Armored Division of the U.S. Army under the command of General George S. Patton. Throughout the two years of operations at Iron Mountain Divisional Camp, five armored divisions and a number of other units were located at the camp. Temporary improvements consisted of 15 showers, 26 latrines, 113 tent frames, an amphitheater, one 4,000 gallon elevated metal water storage tank, two 3,000 gallon elevated metal water storage tank, and four centrifugal water pumps. The only permanent improvements were a chapel, an altar, and a graded contour simulation map which depicted the Desert Training Center area. At least six firing ranges were located near the camp. However, only one portion of the range is within the former boundaries of the camp.

Camp Granite is located on the southern side of State Route 62. This was another divisional camp which was part of the Desert Training Center. This camp provided additional firing ranges and maneuver areas. Camp Granite is located on the site acquired for Camp Iron Mountain but is considered as a separate DERP-FUDS (Defense Environmental Restoration Program - Formerly Used Defense Sites) site,

By March 1943, the North Africa Campaign was in its final stages and the primary mission of the DTC changed. By the middle of 1943, the troops who originally came for desert training maneuvers, were now deployed worldwide. Therefore, to reflect that change in mission, the name of the Center was changed to the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA). The CAMA was to serve as a Theater of Operations to train combat troops, service units and staffs under conditions similar to those which might be encountered overseas.

The CAMA was enlarged to include both a Communications Zone and Combat Zone, approximately 350 miles wide and 250 miles long. Thousands of soldiers and equipment arrived by train at the Freda railroad siding as maneuvers continued at Camp Iron Mountain. Toward the end of 1943, the need for service units for overseas duty increased dramatically, leaving little or no support for the CAMA. Without adequate service unit support, commanders made the decision in January of 1944 to suspend operation of the CAMA. The entire CAMA was declared surplus on 30 March 1944 and the Army formally announced that the CAMA was to be closed by 1 May 1944.

The Camp Iron Mountain site was declared surplus on 16 March 1944. The leases with the Metropolitan Water District for .954 acres had already been terminated on 31 October 1942. The public land owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior, totalling 67,906.55 acres, was retransferred to the Department of the Interior between 1947 and 1949. Activities on the CAMA nominally continued until the 1950s while equipment and materials were collected and shipped and decontamination squads searched out and destroyed unexploded ordnance.

CUrrently the entire encampment area is surrounded by a four foot-high fence with turnstiles added to permit pedestrian access. The original roadway network has deteriorated a great deal due to the scouring of erosion and the emergence of natural vegetation. Some portions of this roadway network are now impassable, and vehicular access to the network is now prohibited.

The chapel and altar at Camp Iron Mountain remain in good condition. Maintenance has been rou~inely done to stabilize the outer edges of these structures. The 200 x 125 foot contour map has deteriorated appreciably. A wooden bridge and walkway, built to permit viewing of this map, has collapsed. Only several wooden supports and some lumber remains. Most of the wooden signs which identified camps and significant features of the center are no longer legible. The concrete protective surface used to hold the topographic features in shape has been broken. As a result, erosion has taken its toll on the map surface. A ten-foot-high fence currently surrounds the map and no access is permitted.

Other remnants of the camp include many rock designs of military insignia and acres of stone work lining the camp roads and walkways. Throughout the camp, many artifacts of camp life can be found including communication wire, batteries, eating utensils, ration cans and bottles.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) placed warning signs on the project site. However, the signs were removed several years ago. No incident reports have actually been handled on the Camp Iron Mountain site. On 15 March 1980, however, -an anti-tank mine was discovered approximately five miles to the northwest of the 67,907 acre site. Site preservation and protection are primary concerns of the BLM; they do not want any surface disturbance at the encampment area site. Unless there is a clear and present danger, the BLM does not desire any restoration activities on this encampment area. The BLM requested that they be notified of any contemplated activity in this area.

According to a BLM report, six firing range areas are located near Camp Iron Mountain. However, only one small portion of one firing range is within the boundaries of the camp. One of the firing ranges is located in the Cadiz Valley area west of the Iron Mountains. The southeast portion of this firing range extends into the northwestern boundary of Camp Iron Mountain. Another firing range is located near Palen Pass in the Palen Mountains south of the project site; a third is located in the Kilbec Hills west of Fishel; a fourth is located on the east side of the Iron Mountains and west of Danby Dry Lake; a fifth is located in the Ward Valley area by the Old Woman Mountains north of Milligan; a sixth is located to the northeast of Danby Dry Lake and east of Saltmarsh and Sablon, California.

A majority of the project site property is comprised of scrubcovered foothills currently owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior under the control of tne Bureau of Land Management. A portion of the site near the Iron Mountain Pumping Plant is owned by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Source: Los Angeles District, US Army Corps of Engineers
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Updated 3 July 2017