Civilian Conservation Corps

Poster by Albert M. Bender promoting the Civilian Conservation Corps
Poster by Albert M. Bender promoting the Civilian Conservation Corps

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was created as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal to provide work relief during the Great Depression. Established with the passage of the Emergency Conservation Work Act of 1933, CCC employed more than two million single men in conservation projects over ten years.

The U.S. Army organized CCC camps of around 200 workers for projects directed by the Department of the Interior to conserve and expand timber resources, increase recreational opportunities, and control damage from soil erosion and floods.

Around fifty camps in Illinois planted sixty million trees for erosion control and reforestation, built nearly 400 bridges, created 1,192 miles of trails, erected 4,742 flood control structures, and installed 223,800 erosion control devices. Between 1930 and 1940, Illinois state parks and monuments increased from 2,800 to 16,500 acres. In Southern Illinois, Giant City Lodge in Jackson and Union Counties stands as an enduring testament to the vision of President Roosevelt and the dedication of CCC workers.

The heritage program of the Shawnee National Forest has conducted archaeological excavation at sites related to African American heritage since 1995, when they began research at Camp Pomona, an African American CCC camp. They interviewed CCC enrollees, mapped the remains of the camp structures and cultural landscape, and excavated a small portion of the camp discard area, recovering quartermaster corps military-issued items, as well as personal artifacts.

Stone Fort Wall at Giant City State Park
Pre-Columbian Late Woodland (600-900 C.E.) stone enclosure at Giant City State Park, photographed by Wikimedia Commons user Dazspell

Giant City State Park

In 1927, Illinois created Giant City State Park from more than 1,100 acres in Jackson and Union Counties. Now 4,000 acres, the park welcomes guests with a visitor center and a lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. Situated on the River to River Trail, the park features hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, and rock climbing.

The park's lodge and original six cabins were constructed with local sandstone and lumber by the 696th Company of the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1934 to 1935. The CCC later built six more cabins, a dining room and kitchen, and the lodge's furniture. Impressed by their workmanship, Pere Marquette State Park commissioned the 696th to furnish their lodge as well. In 1985, the lodge and cabins were added to the National Register of Historic Places. The original cabins were demolished and replaced by replica cabins, and several new cabins were constructed.

Giant City State Park is a National Natural Landmark. The Giant City Stone Fort Site, a pre-Columbian stone enclosure used during the Late Woodland Period (600-900 C.E.) is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.