Tucked away on Interstate 10, between Indio and the Arizona/California State Line, is a tiny unincorporated community called Chiriaco Summit. There’s some pretty cool history involved in how this little community came to be, but we’ll share more of that later. What caught our eye when we pulled off for a bathroom break was this museum:
An odd place for a museum dedicated to a late Army general, right? Well, not so odd when you find out that in 1942, General George S. Patton chose the southeast corner of California and part of Arizona to train his men for the harsh conditions they would endure in the Sahara Desert. Patton’s chosen site was just a mile east of Shaver Summit – now known as Chiriaco Summit. During the time the base was active, soldiers flocked to the well-stocked general store owned by founder Joe Chiriaco.
In 1945, after Patton’s death, the Chiriaco family established a memorial to him. In 1989, the Bureau of Land Management along with Patton’s estate expanded the Chiriaco family’s memorial, opening a museum dedicated to General Patton’s and sharing some of the history of the Desert Training Center that he founded.
The centerpiece of the museum is “The Big Map,” a 5-ton jigsaw relief map created by LADWP in the 1920’s depicting the area traversed by the Colorado River Aqueduct. But of course our kids were more interested in the tank yard.
Unfortunately it was closed to visitors due to work on a new exhibit on the day we passed through, so we could only check out the tanks and military vehicles through the fence. But, if you pass through in November, it should be re-opened again! When it’s actually open, it’s a great place to stretch little legs and get some energy out while learning a bit about our American history.
Tips for this Travel Stop:
- Donations are appreciated. Suggested admission donations are $6 for adults and $1.50 for children 7 and older.
- Bring sunscreen and water if you plan on spending a good amount of time outside in the tank yard. There is a gas station and a gift shop nearby where you can buy drinks if you need them.
- Watch out for snakes. There are signs around the tank yard warning about rattlesnakes, so take care to look before you step.
- Don’t forget to check out the rest of Chiriaco Summit – it’s a cool little place!