When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, it started World War II, sending the United States into a frenzy. During this time of confusion and fear, the government began internment camps for Japanese-Americans. One of the most infamous internment camps was right here in Northern California at Tule Lake.
Tulelake Camp, located 5 miles west of Tulelake in Siskiyou County, began as a vocational workers program for young men during the depression to work on the Klamath Reclamation Project.
After the beginning of World War II, The Tule Lake War Relocation Center was was built next to the camp as one of ten concentration camps in the US for the incarceration of Japanese Americans who had been forcibly relocated from the West Coast.
The Tulelake facility was adapted in the wartime years to shelter Japanese-American strikebreakers used against resisters at the main segregation camp, imprison Japanese-American dissidents, and house Italian and German prisoners of war (POWs) who were assigned to work as farm laborers in the region.
“Of all the wartime incarceration sites, Tule Lake tells the most extreme story of the government’s abuse of power against people who dared to speak out against the injustice of their incarceration,” said Barbara Takei, whose mother was incarcerated at Camp Tulelake during World War II.
Here is a video to give you an idea of the harrowing journey many of these Japanese-Americans went through:
Today, Tule Lake remains as a historical site and wildlife refuge. Learn more about the current state of Tule Lake below:
Tule Lake Refuge, established in 1928, rests in the fertile and intensely farmed Tule Lake Basin in Modoc County. The almost 40-thousand-acre refuge encompasses drier uplands, wetlands and farm land. The refuge is home the the endangered shortnose and Lost River sucker fish.
The area serves as a staging area for migrating waterfowl during spring and fall. It is used primarily by Whitefronted, Snow, Ross, and Cackling Canada geese, all of which nest in the Arctic tundra. A 10-mile auto tour route from Tule Lake allows for wildlife observation throughout the year.
The Klamath Basin NWRs offer excellent, year-round wildlife observation opportunities. Auto tour routes are available at Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges while Silver Lake Road at Klamath Marsh Refuge also affords good viewing. Self-guided canoe tour routes are provided at Tule Lake, Upper Klamath, and Klamath Marsh Refuges. A 10-mile walking and bicycle trail meandering by the marshland and through the forested upland is available at Klamath Marsh refuge. Exceptional viewing of early morning bald eagle flyouts from their winter roost at Bear Valley Refuge is available just outside the refuge. More information on the refuges and facilities is available from the Refuge Headquarters/Visitor Center.
Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography. That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate. You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started. A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.