Camp Iron Mountain

  Camp Iron Mountain

Established in the spring of 1942, Camp Iron Mountain was first occupied by the 3rd Armored Division.  Its 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion constructed 40 miles of camp roads, along with  firing ranges.  By late


Camp Iron Mountain street layout
The rock-lined street layout of Camp Iron Mountain typifies the divisional campsites with its headquarters circle surrounded by a semicircular road off which the administrative tents were arranged.

in the summer of 1942, the entire division had taken over the camp.  Camp Iron Mountain was also home to the 183rd Artillery Group, the X Corps Artillery, and the 951st Artillery Battalion between mid-1942 and mid-1944 (BLM 1984; RP-E, 11 September 1984: B-1).  The 54th Evacuation Hospital was at Camp Iron Mountain from October 15 to November 27, 1943.  During maneuvers conducted between August 29 and September 13, 1942, the Director Headquarters and Advisor's Camp was located at Camp Iron Mountain.  These maneuvers involved the 3rd Armored Division, 7th Motorized Division, 5th Armored Division, 75th Field Artillery Brigade, and elements of the VII Corps (BLM 1984).  It is likely that many maneuvers were planned at Camp Iron Mountain, with the benefit of its large relief map. 

Current Condition
Perhaps the best-preserved divisional camp, Camp Iron mountain has also received the most public attention.  The two outdoor chapels remain; one of these (the smaller of the two) was reportedly a Protestant chapel, the other a Catholic chapel.  Smoke trees stood on either side of the Catholic altar, and rocks formed a kind of sanctuary in front, with a pathway leading to the altar.  The pathway was reportedly lined with cacti.  The Protestant chapel, at least  according to an old photograph, was used by some soldiers of the 183rd Field Artillery Group.  Rock inlays in the concrete could apparently be seen in 1973, forming the numbers of the 183rd and the 951st Field Artillery Battalions (MWD 1973).  The Protestant chapel also had a small sanctuary in front, with rock-lined walkways.  A small cross formed by the placement of rocks in the ground could also be seen in 1973 (RP-E, 28 January 1973: C-1-C-8). 

Also present at Camp Iron Mountain was a large relief map measuring 200 by 175 feet, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The map represented the entire DTC/C-AMA area, from roughly Kingman to Twentynine Palms, and from Hoover Dam to the Coachella Valley.  Built completely to scale, the map included a wooden walkway spanning its entire distance.  The walkway was still extant as late as 1977, although it is gone today (Weight 1977).  The map included small wooden signs indicating large topographic features, as well as divisional camps.  Highways, railroads, and the MWD aqueduct were also represented (RP-E, 28 January 1973: C-1-C-8).  The BLM has fenced off this feature to prevent further vandalism and has dug a diversion channel uphill to prevent erosion.

Camp Iron Mountain after a sandstorm

Camp Iron Mountain was laid out in the same fashion as the other divisional camps.  Many nonnative plants were placed to accentuate particular features at the site.  Plants, particularly smoke trees, barrel cacti, and ocotillos, were planted throughout the camp.  Rocks were used to line walkways, company areas, tents, supply areas, latrines, mess halls, chapels, and many plants.  Reports of a grenade-throwing range near the camp have been made.  Grenade-container end caps were found behind foxholes, which were located halfway between the camp and the mountains to the west.  The camp dump was also reported in the same account, farther away from camp toward the mountains (Blake 1988: 33).  Individuals have reported finding crates containing antitank mines buried near the camp (RPE, 28 January 1973: C-1-C-8).

Prior to the establishment of California Highway 62, the Iron Mountain area was extremely isolated.  This isolation protected the camp from the level of vandalism it faces today.  Even in the late 1970s, artifacts could still be found in large numbers.  Rock-lined walkways and roads are clearly discernible at Camp Iron Mountain, as are unit symbols and other insignias.  The relief map is one of only three known to now exist and is by far the best example.  The two chapels are also rare, the only other one being at Camp Coxcomb.  The chapels' altars are in excellent condition thanks to efforts to preserve them. 

After years of effort, monies were finally made available to make portions of Camp Iron Mountain a preserve in 1973.   In 1979, an environmental analysis record was completed, and a fence and interpretive sign were erected around the relief map.  Unfortunately, the sign was soon thereafter vandalized.   In 1979, the Los Angeles MWD agreed to dig the channel, with the volunteer labor of one of their employees. Later, a cyclone fence was built around the entire relief map (BLM 1984).   the designation of Camp Iron Mountain as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).  Designation of the camp as an ACEC was part of a larger California Desert Conservation Area plan finally implemented in 1980. 



[1] The Desert Training Center/California-Arizona Maneuver Area,1942-1944 HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONTEXTS; Matt C. Bischoff


   Camp Iron Mountain relief map then

Camp Iron Mountain relief map June 1999

  Rock mosaic eagle insignia June 1999

   Rock mosaic June 1999

   Alter at Camp Iron Mountain then

   Alter at Camp Iron Mountain June 1999

Return to top of page

Date of last edit: August 28, 2011 05:10:48 -0700
Copyright: L. Dighera, 2011; All Rights Reserved: