Desert View Tower Jacumba, Jacumba

#2899 of 9,159 in Things to do in California
The Desert View Tower & Boulder Park (California Historical Monument #939) have a long history. The Tower has been a way station for travelers East and West for centuries, and you may find in the rocks many signs left of their passage (ask about the Yoni (yonee) for instance). The 1880's saw Easterners begin to move into the area and use these trails. Below, still visible is the old stage station at Mountain Springs. The original road (barely visible) required an ox team to assist the wagons and coaches up the hill.

Around 1900 saw the first road complete by the Tower. We have a picture of at least one of the opening days of the "new" road. Seems like all of San Diego came in their Model A's. The road continued down below at least partly on sections of the "Old Plank Road." The wood in the Tower was salvaged from the old road. The Desert Tower was built by the 1900 road builders. You can see sections of the old road below the Tower, broken by the Interstate highway in 1965. Usually the interstates stayed away from the older roads that had homes and businesses, but in this case the cut below the Tower is the only possible way through the pass, so they blasted right on through the old road to build the new interstate.

Bert Vaughn of San Diego is credited as the developer of the "new" road and had the Tower built as "a monument ot the pioneers" in 1923. He had bought the whole town of Jacume (now Jacumba), which he believed was scheduled to become a border crossing. You can imagine what a big deal Jacumba would be now if he had been right! Vaughn also had much to do with the development of El Centro, including the Barbara Worth Hotel. He was a bigshot, indeed, out here, then.

Vaughn somehow had title to this land (the Indians didn't count) and wages were cheap "a dollar a day and a jug of wine." Originally located where the freeway intersections the old road, below its permanent site, The Tower was built as an advertisement for his bar and became a roadside attraction because of the cooler temperatures and, of course, the spectacular view.

The justly famous Boulder Park was created in 1933 by an unemployed engineer, out of work during the (last) depression, named Merle Ratcliff, who sculpted representations of mostly reptiles and fanciful animals out of the huge stone boulders.

In 1947, Dennis Newman bought the Tower from the Vaughns. He added the round lower floor to the Tower in 1950, which made it much as you see it today. It is now the last functioning roadside attraction on the San Diego to Yuma corridor.

Ben Schultz, a native San Diegan, first visited the Tower when he was four years old. He bought the Tower from Jane Knapp in 2002.
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Desert View Tower Jacumba Reviews
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  • This was a happy accident stop, saw the Tower from the Intersrare going North and thought that would be neat to go up. So it is $6.50 an Adult to go up the tower. You also get to walk up and down arou...  more »
  • It was my first time to visit this domineering structure that sits high above the desert floor despite passing the sign multiple times when driving on I-8 in years prior. Driving towards Imperial, CA ...  more »
  • What a quirky place. Amazing views. The owner is hysterical (perhaps by both definitions of the word). It costs $5 to climb to the top. Based on this picture, I think it is well worth it. Purchasing a ticket also grants you access to the hiking trail with unique rock paintings. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the hike - the paintings had a lot of character!! Would return if I were ever on Interstate 8 again. Its a great way to break up the drive from San Diego to Phoenix.
  • Good place to stop and stretch that isn't very far off the highway. Interesting and quirky place. Bit of a hippie desert oasis. There is a fee to go up to the viewing tower but you can walk around the grounds and the store at the bottom for no charge. Nice views and good AC mostly occupied by old couch sitting dogs. Funny bumper stickers and fridge magnets for sale. Driving past includes a view of UFOs. The place is for sale also, $650k.

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