El Centro & Desert View Tower

Desert View Tower, a unique road side attraction. www.marianamcdougall.com. Picture of view from Desert View Tower

The library is small, but lively. It’s as much a community center as a library, offering free snacks to children every afternoon, and offering adult coloring meetups every week.


After a lovely stop at the library in El Centro, we started making our way to Silver Strand Beach. On the drive, we noticed the Desert View Tower and decided to stop and have a look. We're glad we did. A unique road side attraction in Jacumba, California, The Desert View Tower and Bolder Park are fun for the whole family. #desertviewtower #roadsideattractions #socal #california #familytravel #travel


Spanish is spoken here just as often as English, and a little girl asks the kids, “Como se llaman?” I translate, and let her know that the kids don’t speak Spanish, but I do a little bit, and I could translate. The little girl smiles and runs back to her mom. They politely say goodbye, as it’s time for them to go home.

I find a spot to work while K-girl reads a pile of books and the younger kids play puzzles and choose books for daddy to read.


Girl reading a book, sitting in the middle of a rug.


boy doing a puzzle at a table in front of a shelf of books.


M-girl is excited to find Library Lion, one of our favourite children’s books. We have it in the RV, but we must read it here, too.


A mother and 4-year-old daughter hold up a copy of Library Lion.


After a lovely visit in El Centro, we make our way to Silver Strand Beach, stopping at the Desert View Tower on the way. We had never heard of this place before, but the tower intrigued us when we saw it from the road, so we go up a very steep and bumpy hill to check it out.


desert tower 

On the way to the tower, an odd collection of items litter the side of the road. Some look like flying saucers, others are indecipherable. In truth, it looks like a very large pile of junk. Several trailers stand by the side of the road, filled with goodness-knows-what, and large “keep out” signs have been written with marker on heir windows. In one of the trailers, a mannequin’s head floats from the ceiling, and the creep factor is about a 10. But now we’re committed to getting to the tower, so we keep on going. Backing out of this narrow street would be a bit of a nightmare with a 32-footer anyway.

The desert view tower was built back in the 1920s as a road side attraction by the owner of the city of Jacumba, Bert Vaughn. A gift shop was later built around the base of the tower. For $6.50 per adult, you can climb up the tower, which will give you an incredible view of the desert surrounding the property, and you can also explore Boulder Park. The views are breathtaking, and going up to the tower was worth it.


view from Desert View Tower, Jacumba, California


I chat with the owner for a bit. He’s got an interesting sense of humour. There are lots of interesting items in the tower and in the gift shop, though every single one is covered by a very thick layer of dust. 

The lazy, friendly dogs curl up on the couch and welcome anyone who wants to pet them. I counted 4 dogs all together, but there might be more. They were cute, and the girls enjoyed petting them. G-boy wanted to stay in the RV and play Lego, and we figured that was fine, since Dan didn’t want to come up the tower anyhow.

After walking through the four stories of the tower, each containing handmade and antique items for sale, we explore Boulder Park, which contains impressive, if odd stone sculptures carved by M.T. Ratliffe during the depression era. For kids who enjoy climbing on rocks, it’s a pretty fun outing.


two girls sit in a cave at Bolder Park, Jacumba, California


snake stone sculpture in Bolder Park, Jacumba, Arizona

lizard stone sculpture at boulder park, Jacumba, California


Boulder Park


If you think this is a neat place, the 93-acre property could be yours for the low price of 1.25 million dollars, down from 2.5 millions dollars. Alternatively, you can rent out the tower or come to one of their yoga retreats.

All in all, it was a unique place to visit, and we’re glad we stopped by. If you enjoy unique road side stops, it’s a relatively inexpensive attraction that you’ll probably enjoy as well.


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