Gila River


Once home to 13,000 internees, the sprawling Gila River complex draws maybe two to three dozen visitors annually.  Located on the Gila River Indian Reservation southeast of Phoenix, AZ, access to the camp has been severely restricted over the years.

Gila River was actually two camps, Canal (#1) and Butte (#2), a few miles apart in the desert. Very little remain of the camps, according to James Kubota and Mas Inoshita, two members of the Arizona chapter of JACL who lead tours of the sites.  Eight graders from the Greenway Middle School in Phoenix go once a year to clean up the sites, but other than that, few people ever go there.

For those wishing to visit anyway, permits are required by the Tribal Authorities,.  Apply at least six weeks in advance to: Errol V. Blackwater, Director, Gila River Indian Community, .O Box E, 205 W. Casa Blanca Rd., Sacaton, AZ 85247. The permit will cost $200.

The fee is waived for former internees or their descendants.  Arrangements can be made through the Arizona JACL at arizonajacl@gmail.com.  Kubota and Inoshita do remind that plans should still be made at least six weeks in advance, and they warn that daytime temperatures often top 100 degrees during the summer and fall. Tours typically last three-to-five hours.