City History by Organization: Civilian Conservation Corps
Use: Federal Organization
Founder: President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Close: March Unknown
Three C's Left Their Mark
Keeping in touch in the high country.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was created as one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first acts upon taking office in 1933. Designed top help the country out of the Depression, the CCC put unemployed men to work in forests and national parks.
CCC work on Pacific Northwest national forests involved reforestation, insect and disease control, tree improvement, fire fighting, recreational improvements, and building truck trails (roads) and administrative sites.
Maintaining Forest Trails and Telephone Lines
CCC crews from Camp Belknap constructed and maintained many trails in the McKenzie Bridge and Blue River areas. Jim Drury of McKenzie Bridge recalled his work as leader of a trail and telephone maintenance crew from 1934 to 1935 in an oral history given in 1984.
I had four boys with me and we started out in the spring of the year at the bottom end of the Indian Ridge Trail, known then as Jeffrey's Point. (now under Cougar Reservoir). We started there and we worked up to Indian Ridge, out over Hiyu and Chucksney, down to Box Canyon, across the McBee Trail, out around Irish Mountain, on to Mink Lake. Cliff Lake, and around to Horse Lake. By that time it was fall and we came out down to McKenzie Ranger Station.
That was the first time that all of the logs that were in the trails were cut out. They were bucked out and rolled out of the way. Before that if the log was four foot through they just chopped a notch in it enough that a horse could step over it and that was considered maintained.
We were moved by old Ed Woods or old Dee Wright, the packers. They would take all out camp gear and our food from one camp to the next.
In those days there were no radios, but there were telephone lines almost everywhere. And they had these old mine.. (phones), cast iron phones that were set up at trail junctions on the side of a tree.
A switchboard operator's work station.
If there wasn't a telephone set up like a lookout or a guard station or these mine phones, you had a test set and you got out there on the line, tied on there, and you got a ground something where it was wet.. a piece of copper wire or something to throw in there and then you could talk to the ranger station. A little old test set that had a crank on it.. clipped on to the wire, put the ground wire in a muddy place... crank 'em up.
Campground construction and the Chinese sawmill
Campground furniture and material for building campground structures were prepared at the "Chinese sawmill" at Camp Belknap. Dale Carlson, in charge of the sawmill from 1937 to 1938, described it in an oral history conducted in 1984:
We cut the logs for the campground furniture, and I should say we ripped the logs. The crew that was logging would bring the logs in to us, always cedar logs. They were usually a foot through, a little less or a little more, depending on what we were making.
For the tables we would stand an eight foot log upright. We had a scaffold. We'd mark this on each side. And we'd take two men up there and start cutting that log to those lines and rip it in two 80 there'd be slabs, two pieces eight feet long. It was just back and forth with the old cross cut saw until that log was cut from one end to the other. After we cut for ten or fifteen minutes we'd have to move our scaffold plank down a couple of feet. We'd do that all day long. That, if you ever wondered, is how those logs were cut.
After we had put the slabs together as a table surface, we'd grasp the bit of the axe, where the handle and the bit came together, and use that as a sort of plane - push it along to take chunks off the cedar. It peeled off pretty easily if you had a good sharp axe. When we had performed that duty as well as we could, we would take a regular jack plane and go over the whole thing and get it real nice and smooth.
CCC work in the McKenzie Bridge/Blue River area was done by crews from Camp Belknap, located at the site of today's McKenzie Ranger Station. The camp operate from June of 1933 to June of 1938.
Camp Belknap crews built Dee Wright Observatory. a winter recreational area at present day White Branch Youth Camp, and the first road from Belknap Junction to Clear Lake and Santiam Junction. They also developed areas around the McKenzie River falls and built the community shelter and recreation facilities at Clear Lake, and buildings and houses at Fish Lake and along Horse Creek Road.
CCC crews built Horse Creek, McKenzie, Paradise, and many smaller campgrounds, trails around Clear and Mink Lakes, a new Skyline Trail from McKenzie Pass to Big Lake, shelters along White Branch and the Skyline Trail, and check dams at Scott, Irish Camp, and Melakwa Lakes to prepare them for fish stocking.
Crews fought fires in the McKenzie area as well as in southwestern Washington, the Row River Valley, at Triangle Lake, near Gold Beach, and in the Smith and Chetco River areas. After 1938, the camp was used as a fire camp until the mid 1960's when the present McKenzie Ranger Station was built.