The CCC: Then and Now

Cherokee County Historical Society. [Civilian Conservation Corps], photograph, September 18, 1988; ( accessed March 11, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Cherokee County Historical Commission.

The CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corps, was an organization established by Franklin D. Roosevelt to help pull America out of the looming tragedy of the Great Depression.  The organization sought to provide jobs to unemployed Americans while implementing conservation projects throughout the country. Young men aged 16-25 were eligible to apply for the labor-intensive opportunity.  Each worker received $30 a month as payment, with $25 of it going home to their parents. The workers lived off of $5 a month, but they were provided clothing, housing, and food in exchange for their work.

In Utah, the first CCC camp was established in American Fork Canyon in 1933. 115 other camps soon followed throughout the state.  For the duration of the CCC, Utah had between 30 and 35 camps at all times, due to its abundance of projects. The impact that these projects made in Utah can still be appreciated today. Some of the local projects included creating many of the loop roads throughout the Wasatch canyons, the rewrapping of the Virgin River, and the construction of the bridge over the San Rafael River.  One of the most noticeable of their projects was the 700+ miles worth of terraces carved into the hillsides of the Wasatch Front. These terraces were cut by the CCC to mitigate flooding and landslides throughout the Salt Lake Valley and can still be seen today.

The CCC was responsible for the construction of the all-weather roads into Boulder, which was a community cut off from the rest of the state during the winter months. They spent five years improving bird refuges on the Bear River and Ogden Bay and planted more than 3.2 million trees throughout Utah during their time. They also helped with building trails, building campgrounds, maintaining roads, curbing erosion, and helping to make the back and front country along the Wasatch Range a livable and enjoyable place for the residents of the time.

The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service were the biggest users of the CCC. The crew was known as the Forest Army.  They attended fire fighting school and created a 5,500 man fire brigade that was called upon to suppress fires throughout Utah. The CCC provided their workers with a wide range of skills that they could carry with them into the post-depression work force, along with a sense of discipline that prepared many of the men to fight in World War II.

Very few people know and recognize the impacts that the CCC had not only on the land but also on the wellbeing of families and the nation’s economy.  The CCC was terminated in 1942 in Utah, and a farewell article in the Salt Lake Tribune wrote that “the CCC may be dead but the whole country is covered with lasting monuments to its timely service.”