1933 brought great change to our county and Zion National Park.
The Great Depression was ruling the country with a 25% unemployment rate and many people simply struggling to survive. In the midst of this national tragedy, a plan was developed by newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt to revive the people of this country and to improve our public lands. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was developed to take young, unemployed men and put them to work on public lands while providing them with skills needed to obtain future employment. The Museum Collections allows us to explore the CCC's contributions to Zion.
Three Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps were established in Zion National Park to accommodate the men completing work projects. The wooden barracks displayed in this picture of a CCC Zion camp held around 200 men. These barracks, as well as a mess hall and recreation building, were provided by the army.
The CCC was established through the collaborative efforts of many government agencies, but the army was responsible for the day to day operations of camps. CCC men received their food, clothing, housing, and medical assistance from the army. The army also created a structured routine for men. When the CCC work in Zion was terminated in 1942, many men were able to easily transition from structured CCC life to the structured life of a military man as they fought in World War II.
Belden Lewis recorded his experience of life in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in a diary from 1934-1935. The diary reveals the daily work routine in Zion as well as offering glimpses into the exciting happenings as a CCC boy. When describing a day of work he says “I’m tired out- legs ache. Been working hard- spread pea gravel on walks, went to Rockville for gravel. Worked hard.”
More prominent in the diary are writings about events outside of work. Receiving a letter from home or eating a well prepared, and well portioned, dinner were generally the highlights of his day. Just like visitors today, CCC men explored much of the park and the surrounding areas. The CCC men spent all week completing back breaking labor but still managed to complete great physical exertion on the weekends, “I went on a long hike. First to West Rim, then on the way back Widdison and I went to Angels Landing and signed our name in the autograph book . The hike was at least 25 miles long round trip and we were tired.” The CCC boys worked hard but also had opportunities to enjoy and appreciate the beautiful park they were creating.
During their nine years at Zion they built and improved many of the Zion Canyon’s trails, created parking areas, fought fires, helped build campgrounds, built park buildings, and reduced flooding of the Virgin River.