Monday, February 25, 2013

The Oddest Thing We've Ever Seen in the Desert

After four years of construction just north of Yuma Arizona, the Laguna Dam became operational. It was the very first dam constructed on the Colorado River and was built to divert water for the irrigation of many thousands of acres in the desert areas of southern Arizona and California.

In 1938 the Imperial dam was built several miles upriver from the Laguna Dam. That construction made the Laguna Dam redundant and the need for it to divert Colorado River water was eliminated forever.  As with most redundant things in the desert, the Laguna Dam was not destroyed. The dam and many of the works relating to it are still there. Two of those related items are one of the main diversion gates and a bridge leading from the closest road to the top of the dam. They were saved because it was a part of Arizona history.  Many Arizonans didn't want these things saved, in fact, they were many civilian pickax attacks on the bridge and diversion gate. The authorities had to protect these things with armed guards. Now, like most things in the desert than have outlived their usefulness this place is left to erode away. Most of the locals don't even know it's there.

You might be wondering why some people wanted this bridge and gate destroyed.  Well, here are the answers to those questions. 

It doesn't look like anything special from here.

When I saw this, I didn't know what to think...

No matter how you look at it, that bridge is adorned with Swastikas.

Like most of the things we find, this one is also in the middle of nowhere. 

Here is the diverter gate. It looks innocent enough.

Obligatory black and white

 There hasn't been any water in this thing for decades.

A closer look at the gate. The construction date of 1907 is clearly visible. 

I climbed thorough a hole in the fence and climbed out onto the gate to get this photo.

Another Swastika!

 I really liked this view, barbed wire and all.

Another string of them.

Obviously, these things were imprinted into the concrete many years before the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, but many people around the Yuma area during the war weren't buying it. There were many rumors relating to who did this and why. The truth is that this symbol has been used in many cultures for hundreds of years and was usually thought of as a positive thing. Still, when I saw these things last month, in the year 2013, I FELT them. I can see why people tried to destroy them with picks, but I can also see why they are protected.   

I truly think that this is the oddest thing we've run across in all the time we've spent roaming the deserts of the southwest. It got a lot odder when I was doing some research on the "Swastika Bridge." Authorities in Arizona consider these things to be part of the historical record of their state.  I get that, because these things were built many years before the rise of the Nazi Party. What I don't understand though, is why did they have Swastikas on their state highway signs into the 1940's?

Fact truer than fiction...



  1. I hate to bring this up, but isn't that a Native American symbol also? I do believe I read that MAYBE, just MAYBE they were carved into the cement to honor Arizona's native American heritage??? You said the bridge and dam predate WWII and the rise of the Nazis.

  2. I knew that the swastika symbol was in use long before the Nazi's ever existed but one does have to wonder why AZ continued to use it after WWII. Is that your next research project?

    Love these excursions and pics, btw :)

  3. Wow, now that is strange! Truth is odder than fiction-

  4. That is just really odd...
    Excellent photos as usual, especially the black and white.

  5. A great post Pat - very interesting findings but also really odd... the stuff of Conspiracy Theories I might be tempted to think!
    There are swastikas everywhere though... usually from long before the Nazis decided to high jack them for their use. I recall seeing them in the mosaic tiles of the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum, preserved by the lava of Vesuvius.

  6. no matter the origin or intent, it is chilling and stunning to see them today.

  7. trav4adventures - You are correct about that. However, these particular symbols supposedly relate to their use in the country of India. I even read that they were honoring a particular type of water management system that was used there. Either way, I guess it caused a big stink here at one time. These days, except for the occasional tourist, nobody sees them.

    mshatch - So true, for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Until the Nazis adopted it, it always represented something positive.

    Shelly - Yes it is. Many legends and conspiracy theories relating to this place.

    Alex - Just as odd as can be! Thanks Alex.

    Nat - You are right about those things Nat. In addition, they were used as decorations in old government buildings that still exisit today. The city of Glendale (in the Los Angeles area) has a row of street lights with Swastikas cast into the base. Like I said up front. I get that. The Highway signs, I wonder about. Arizona has always marched to the beat of their drummer. Even today...

    PTM - I wouldn't doubt it. Speaking of that. Swastikas are one of those symbols that were used worldwide by ancient people. Even so when they had zero contact with each other...

    TexWisGirl - I totally agree with you. I'm glad and amazed that they are still there, but your "chilling and stunning" description fits how it hit me, perfectly.

  8. I do so agree with TexWis and you, Pat! I grew up when this was the symbol of so much horror and it's hard to forget that even when you know the history! Fascinating post for the day!!

  9. This is very disturbing to me. I'm glad you are bringing it to our attention. Even if these symbols stand for something else, the fact that that's a swastika should've moved the city/state to cover them up or destroy them. It almost makes me cry.


  10. Sylvia - I'm right there with you. I totally understand why people went out there with picks and sledge hammers to try and destry the images.

    Robyn - I completely understand why you would find it very disturbing. I have some Jewish friends who RV with us a lot. They found it to be upsetting as well. I think what the symbol came to represent under the Nazis, trumps all the old stuff.

  11. Extraordinary on lots of levels. For me, this includes having space in which to lose bridges.

  12. I love these places left where you can see over time poetically.

  13. You are right Pat, that is mighty strange!

  14. FYI, the swastika is the Hindu symbol for peace. I'd assume it is also a meaningful symbol for the American Indian.

    You find the best sites, this one is chocked full of goodies!

  15. It is too bad the Nazis ruined a perfectly good symbol with their association! I don't think an old dam is much of history marker. They don't keep it nice or anything so it seems to me they may as well get rid of it.

    I'm pretty surprised at the road signs. Never seen those before. Thanks for the photos and the history.

  16. Very strange and very intersting.

  17. Thought I'd add this link:

    Talks about the Navajo using this symbol.

  18. Pat, you truly do find the coolest stuff ever. That swastika logo on that bridge is an amazing find. There has to be more to the story but your question about the 40's road signs is interesting.

    Those B&W shots was really great...glad you was a dare-devil photographer to all these shots!

  19. Esther - Esther, there are so many abandonded things out here. Space is something we have plenty out here in the southwest.

    Leovi - Not as much time as in Europe Leovi, but for us it is a lot.

    Brian - Yep! Mighty strange!

    Wayne - I did a lot of research on it and across the board, it was a positive symbol. Right up until the time that the Anti-Christ took over in Germany. Thanks Wayne!

    Belle - I agree with you. If it was just a run of the mill dam, I'd agree with you. This one was the first dam on the mighty Colorado though. Still, I do understand why a lot of folks would rather just see it gone.

    Kay - I agree on both counts!
    Thanks for the link! I've been to that website and have see the same information in other places as well.

    Chuck - Thanks my friend! I agree about the roadsigns. I'm trying to find out when and who fainally made the decision to change the logo. I'm sure somebody was taking a lot of heat because of it.

  20. WHAT the *(*&^! They still used that sign in the 40s? Incredible.

    Wow, this really was a fascinating find Pat. Made me think about how long it takes for mindsets to change. ....Most of the blogs I look at regularly are (like mine) sort of PollyAnna most of the time....I'm looking for the joy...but a few blogs like yours remind me to put my brain in gear. And I appreciate that. (And I need that!)

  21. very interesting observastion..strange :)

  22. that is really odd.
    what a stunning find!
    you never know what/who you might meet in the desert.

    terrific photos as usual!

  23. I love your articles not only for the beautiful pictures, not only for the interesting narrative and so on, mainly because after reading your articles I have lots of things to think.
    I've never thought about those signs and symbols.
    Hey...I'm also worried, the bridge doesn't look safe, not at all.
    And for sure I love your choice for b&w, perfect composition!
    *** Luna is sending purrs and love to you and your adorable family!

  24. Fascinating story and photos. I have heard the Swastika was used decoratively but I thought the original image was the flip side of the image Hitler adopted. I'll have to look up later...or you might. :)

  25. Beautiful pictures, but the swastika is, like everyone else has sad, very disturbing. If I had been in charge, I would have changed it after WWII. No matter what it meant before, the whole Hitler thing just kind of erases all of the other meanings and that one is the only prevalent one now. That's my opinion on the matter anyway. Your pictures really are stunning, especially the B&W one. Those are always my favorite.

  26. The swastika is actually a sacred Sanskrit symbol and was (and is) used to mean 'a higher self' long before the Nazi party adopted it as theirs.

    and similarly if the structure was built in 1907 it was built before the German Nazi party rise in power.

    but still... a big water flow thing for the desert!? some gov't official somewhere must have thought it a good idea... o.0

  27. Do you think this might be the swirling log pattern from Native American artwork?

    It's fascinating, though.

    You and your wife love travelling as we do! Open for any adventure!

    What a neat post!

  28. I thought, when you said you found something odd in the desert, you found a safe on top of a coyote.

  29. Sallie - thanks Sallie! I have to admit that it blew my mind.

    Costea - Yes, Costea! Very strange...

    Betty M - Very odd indeed! You are right about the desert! We are in a different desert now and have already see some good stuff.

    Leia - Thanks so much Leia! I really do appreciate the nice words. It does have some major cracks in it. thanks again! Give luna a scratch on the head for me.

    White Mountains TV16 - Thanks! They have a lot of different stylized versions of it, but there are all reallty the same thing.

    Amanda - I pretty much agree with you, but it is awesome to have a bridge to use to see the first dam on one of America's greatest rivers. thanks so much Amanda!

    Gingerspark - I'm aware of that and so were the people who lived in the area. Swastikas were a common sight in this state long before the Nazi's were even thought of. I'm still going to find out why they weren't removed from their road signs until long after the Nazi part was in power. It should be interesting.

    Jenny - Hi Jenny! The government said this particular symbol represented the Indian (in India) interpratation. Since I've been looking into this, I've seen hundreds of stylized versions of it, so it's hard to tell. The most odd thing about it is how did the same symbol become adopted by cultures that absolutely NO WAY of contacting each other. In fact, many of those cultures thought they were the only culture. Who knows?

    Al - I found that also. I believe the safe was an ACME model...

  30. I'm dumfounded to see all those swastikas imbedded into the concrete and on the signs.
    Symbols of different cultures- I guess.
    Great history lesson here Pat.

  31. wow, very interesting. I love seeing what you come across in your explorations!

  32. I've heard it's also a Native American design...

    We've got a post office here in Northeast Minneapolis that has swastikas in the brickwork along the top of the building. We like to get drunk and point and hoot at it.



  33. Another fascinating post, which sent me on a Google mission. Interesting stuff. Hitler's swastikas seem to be standing on a point and facing opposite of most of the good swastikas. He sure did ruin the symbol, though. Not only ruin it, but he brought the symbol to prominence in the modern age in the process of ruining it. What a graphic genius. Imagine if his energies had been turned to good? And yes, it's amazing that Arizona left it on the signs. My thought is that it had to do with the era. Maybe the state thought they were not going to let the Nazis usurp a good symbol, and isn't our awareness of the Nazi horror mainly from post-war? History showed that Hitler's use of it was overwhelming. I know this country should have been aware earlier, but I think many eyes were closed until later. I'm not clear on the history of why that was. I know children of survivors, and the information was available here. I really like your B&W pix in this post. They are classic B&W. Usually I prefer the color.

  34. The swastika was in use for at least 3000 years by the Navajo and Hopi Indians, but they stopped using it after Hitler appropriated it for evil. Seems the state of Arizona might want to follow their lead. Your photo-journalism keeps me wanting more!

  35. Thats a crazy bridge adornment! Which just goes to show people were stupid in the past too!

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW

    Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS: penguins put on a good show - once it was dark!

  36. Pat, I am so intrigued about this find, even on the highway signs, the swastika is very obvious.

    My friend opted for an early retirement, will be trading her house for an RV, and will be joining her for photoshoots when time permits, hopeful for a first RV experience.

  37. I have to say, you come across the most fascinating and amazing things in your travel, Pat!

    However, I can't help to feel like there is so much waste in letting those things rotten like that!

    Thanks for all the comments :)

  38. here for the 1st time great blog..! :) and congratulations it feels really awsum when your hard work pays off.! :) From Bad Day

  39. However benign the original intent for those symbols to be imprinted up there, in 2013 it definitely gives me goosebumps! Gosh, you truly have stumbled over some amazing things upon your travels, Pat, but I agree this probably is up there as one of the most strangest finds you've encountered to date. Great photography, too!

  40. I have heard (and believe) that the symbol was used prior to Hitler and the Nazis and so I understand why it was put on the bridge back when it was built. And it is a piece of history so yeah, I guess I wouldn't attack it with pickaxes.

    But the idea that the State of AZ was still using the symbol after WWII just simply gives me cold chills and you can't make me believe that they left it there because of its historical meaning. Oh My God. Reminds me of the r-words in the south who claim they're flying Confederate flags because they're historical meaning. Yeah. Right.

    No more political rant here so I'll just add that the pictures are stunning and as with all your leftover finds in the desert just eerie (even without the symbol).

  41. I love, love love these posts, and your blog. I love the way you tell the history of things, and find the coolest things ever!!

    So weird about the swastikas...kind of scary too.

    Your photos are beautiful!

  42. Pam - That's true and we all know that when cultures collide, there are sometimes problems...

    Carly - Thanks Carly! Lot's to see out there.

    Pearl - Yep, there are many variations of it in most cultures and it apparently didn't matter which way it turned. Until the WW2, they all seemed to represent something positive.

    tapirgal - Hi there! I also hunted for information on line and off. Lot's of variations and lot's of different meanings. You are right about the atrocities being known about by some much earlier, but in a general sense, most people didn't know until after the war.

    Stickup Artist - You are right! Also, the 45th US Army Infantry Division wore a Swastika shoulder patch as their official identification. They changed it to a Thunderbird in 1939.

    Stewart M - HA! There is no shortage of stupidity, that's for sure!

    Ebie - The American Indians used it extensively. Congrats to your friend! It's great to have an RV to use as a central point for adventures. It's also MUCH for comfortable than sleeping on the ground.

    Icy BC - I'm not sure they could do much more to preserve them. It's all fenced off, but that far out in the boonies, it's hard to monitor. Concrete does last a long time though... My pleasure on the comments. I can't follow the blogs I like everyday, so I have to catch up.

    Always Unlucky - Thanks for showing up and commenting!

    Shrinky - Hey! Long time no see! I agree, I understand the bridge decoration predated the Nazi party by a long time, but it still had an impact on me. In terms of oddness, I agree that this one is right up there! Right up there with the submarine we found on a mountain top last year.

    Sallie - I understand all sides of this issue, but I'm with you. It's historical and should be protected. A funny thing... In my exuberance at finding the swastikas, I totally forgot to show any photos of the dam (first one on the Colorado) that the bridge leads to. I know what you mean about the Confederate flag and that symbol also represents different things to different people.

    Kato - Thank you so much my friend! And on top of all that, we both share a love for abandoned places!

  43. That is very strange. What the hell? Be interesting to know why. Surely somebody must know. Get onto the Jewish Society. They'll find out for sure. lol

    Great photos again. What a fantastic series youve been providing and clearly enjoying.

  44. Strange but I could see stopping and shooting a lot of pics of this...
    another great find.

  45. I have never been in your deserts but this looks like something very strange. Great find!

  46. Swastikas are all over the southwest. They're even on the Kimo movie palace in Albuquerque. Ancient Sanskrit symbol of the sun going across the horizon into night. Probably means something similar to other cultures

  47. Maybe you haven't seen this?

    Scroll down:
    "These symbols, the Yuma Sun writes, stem from a trip the project engineers took to India, where they “came across a symbol that represented a Hindu goddess with power over water.”
    Bureau of Reclamation

  48. Pasadena Adjacent - Oh yeah! They are all over the place. There are hundreds of them in the Los Angeles areas on street light poles from the 1920's.

    Daren Sefcik - Thanks Daren! I knew it probably didn't mean what a lot people thought it meant, but still very interesting.

    Peter D. Tillman - Thanks Peter! I'm totally aware of that, but I thank you for commenting and for providing the link.

  49. To all the posters wondering why the swastika is still in use...

    The word swastika derives from Sanskrit, and means "it is good". The symbol has been in use for hundreds, if not thousands of years before Hitler adopted it and made it evil. Dene (Navajo) have been using it in their weavings (which is why you see it on the arrowhead, which is the symbol for a tribal highway on the reservations) for hundreds of years, and they called it "whirling logs". It's not an Arizona thing, the bridge was built by the US Government and it was their choice to use it in 1905 when they built the bridge. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is why you can't just "tear it down", nor would you want to. It's part of American and Arizona history.


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