No trip along the I-8 Freeway to/from the Anza Borrego desert is complete without a stopover at the unique Desert View Tower. The tower is located near Jacumba and Ocotillo in western Imperial County. It is at 3,000 feet (910 m) in elevation in the In-Ko-Pah Mountains. It is also adjacent to the remaining sections of Old U.S. Route 80.
The Desert Tower makes a great place to visit for any van or RV nomad looking to experience something a little different and out of the ordinary. The town is located in the remote section of Imperial County and is a known landmark.
The Desert Tower will provide anyone a great history lesson of the surrounding area with million-dollar views. It cost $7.50 Adult $3.50 Child to go to the Observation deck but free to enter the gift store. The parking lot is small but rarely crowded and the road to the tower is rough.
The observation deck offers views of the I-8 winding down to the arid valley floor. Each window in the tower is labeled to identify landmarks shimmering in the distance. It’s not visible from the Tower, but south through the mountains is the border with Mexico.
Adjacent to the tower is Boulder Park, an ensemble of sculptures of animals and other figures. They were sculpted in the local stone by Merle Ratcliff (spelling of his name varies across different sources) over two years during the 1930s while he was unemployed during the Great Depression.
The park also has many rocks weathered by wind and turned into caves and craggy walkways that kids seem to love. Both the tower and Boulder Park are works of folk art.
The stone tower was built over several years beginning in 1922 by Bert Vaughn, a San Diego real estate developer who owned Jacumba. Vaughn dedicated it to the pioneers and highway and railroad builders who opened up the area. It also served as a roadside advertisement for a restaurant and bar on the old road across from the tower.