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In the 1880s the area experienced an economic boom with the discovery of borax at Death Valley.From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the area began to grow tremendously as mining operations of all types flourished.Fort Irwin is at an average elevation of 2,454 feet (748 m).It is located 37 miles (60 km) northeast of Barstow, in the Calico Mountains.Captain Fremont established a camp near Bitter Springs as he pioneered a route that served travelers on the Old Spanish Trail, and later the Mormon Road, linking Salt Lake City to California.This camp was later to become an important water and grazing place for pioneers crossing the Mojave Desert during California's settlement and gold rush.
The Fort Irwin area has a history dating back almost 15,000 years, when Native Americans of the Lake Mojave Period were believed to live in the area.In 1942, the Mojave Anti-Aircraft Range was renamed Camp Irwin, in honor of Major General George Le Roy Irwin, commander of the 57th Field Artillery Brigade during World War I, and it was subsumed into the Desert Training Center as one of its cantonment areas and some of its ranges.Two years later, Camp Irwin was deactivated and placed on surplus status. 43d Infantry Division from Camp Pickett, Virginia were the first to train at the new facility.Soon railroads, workers, and businesses led to the establishment of the nearby town of Barstow.The years following the Indian Wars were quiet militarily. Roosevelt established the Mojave Anti-Aircraft Range, a military reservation of approximately 1,000 square miles (3,000 km) in the area of the present Fort Irwin.