This Historic Site Is Now Officially Part of the U.S. National Park System

The hope is that preserving this Japanese American internment camp in Colorado will inform future generations about a shameful part of U.S. history.

A guard tower, with single-story barracks at left background

The Amache National Historic Site was one of 10 Japanese American internment camps in the United States during World War II.

Courtesy of the National Park Service

Nearly two years after President Biden signed the Amache National Historic Site Act, the former World War II Japanese American internment camp in southeastern Colorado has finally come under the National Park System jurisdiction, becoming the most recent national historical site. The designation is meant to ensure that the country remembers and atones for this dishonorable episode in American history.

“As a nation, we must face the wrongs of our past in order to build a more just and equitable future,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement. “The Interior Department has the tremendous honor of stewarding America’s public lands and natural and cultural resources to tell a complete and honest story of our nation’s history.”

Although presidents can unilaterally name historical sites (unlike full-fledged national parks, which require an act of Congress), Amache took so long to be officially welcomed into the protected land fold because the nearby town of Granada first had to acquire and donate the land.

Spanning less than one square mile, Amache, also known as the Granada Relocation Center, is the site where more than 10,000 Japanese Americans were detained after being forcibly removed from their homes on the West Coast between 1942 and 1945. It was one of 10 such internment camps that were set up in the U.S. west and southwest after President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in February 1942 in response to the Pearl Harbor bombing.

“Amache’s addition to the National Park System is a reminder that a complete account of the nation’s history must include our dark chapters of injustice,” National Park Service director Chuck Sams said in a statement. “To heal and grow as a nation we need to reflect on past mistakes, make amends, and strive to form a more perfect union.”

Amache was originally added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and later made a National Historic Landmark in 2006. Today, what remains of the original site are foundations of some concrete buildings, a cemetery for the 121 internees who died at Amache, and a handful of restored and reconstructed structures, including a barrack, a recreation hall, a water tank, and a guard tower. By becoming a national park site, Amache is now eligible for federal funding for preservation efforts.

“What we choose to preserve for future generations is a statement of our values,” Colorado senator John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “The story of Amache is one every American should learn and refuse to repeat.”

Amache isn’t the only former internment camp that the National Park Service manages. Others include Hono‘uli‘uli in Hawai‘i, Minidoka in Idaho, as well as Manzanar and Tule Lake National Monument in California.

All told, there are now 429 national park units (an umbrella term that includes everything from official national parks to national monuments, national preserves, and national battlefields) across the United States and its territories.

Though Amache would have been the first addition to the national park system during the Biden administration, five national monuments have come under the national park umbrella in the meantime, including Camp Hale National Monument in Colorado, Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Nevada, Castner Range National Monument in Texas, Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni National Monument in Arizona, and Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, which consists of sites in Illinois and Mississippi.
In addition to Amache, there are 73 national historic sites within the National Park System. They include the Boston African American Historic Site, the First Ladies National Historic Site in Ohio, and the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site in North Dakota.

Located about 3.5 hours southeast of Denver, Amache is open to visitors during daylight hours. No fee or ticket is necessary to enter and visit the site.

This story was first published in June 2022 and has been updated to include current information.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at Afar. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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