Desert Tower and Boulder Park Caves


Bert Vaughn and M.T. Ratcliffe  |  Bert 1878–1974 &  MT 1882–1956  |  Jacumba, CA

Environment with rock sculptures  |  Created 1920 to mid 1930s

My Midwest upbringing didn’t prepared me for the dramatic landscapes of the southern California mountain desert.  The mountains looked like piles of rubble…great big piles of great big rocks…not one solid rock like the Rockies.

Back in 1920, Bert Vaughn decided to take advantage of this unique topography and location (in the mountains, where “vapor lock” stranded many a motorist,) and create the roadside attraction  “Desert Tower.”  Built to commemorate the pioneers and road and railroad workers who “opened” the area, it is a formidable three story structure structure, that has with stood daily tremors and earthquakes over the years, and offers a breathtaking view of the rugged landscape.

In the 1930s, Bert hired M.T. Ratcliffe, a self-taught sculptor, to carve some figures in the boulders near the tower.  M.T. created a hide-and-seek sculpture environment with all sorts of animals and reptiles hidden amongst the rocks.  Folks, especially kids, today still enjoy the opportunity to climb about, searching out the various snakes, lions, lizards and Indians hidden in the landscape. It is a great way to stretch your legs as you journey along the California-Mexico border.