When the Great Depression began in 1929, many young men were without hope. Without job training or experience, they could not survive. For many, their only salvation was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)—a program that put poor young men to work in national parks, national forests, state parks, and other public lands. In northern Arizona, the CCC boys planted trees, built roads and buildings, strung telephone lines, erected fences, constructed trails and campgrounds, and put out forest fires. During the terrible winter of 1936–1937, they came to the rescue of hundreds of ranchers and their starving livestock. The work of the CCC boys was not only prolific but also made to last. From the Petrified Forest’s Painted Desert Inn to the cabins and trails of Kingman’s Hualapai Mountain Park to Prescott’s Granite Basin Recreation Area, we still walk in their footprint.
Robert W. “Bob” Audretsch retired as a National Park Service ranger at Grand Canyon in 2009 after nearly 20 years of service. Since then, he has devoted himself full time to research and writing about the Civilian Conservations Corps (CCC). Bob grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and attended Wayne State University where he received a BA in history and a MS in library science. Prior to his work as a ranger, he was a librarian in Michigan, Ohio, and Colorado.
AFTER FIVE YEARS OF CCC research, it is apparent that the largest problem in telling the CCC story is the fact that they did an extraordinary amount of work. To get one’s hands around their accomplishments is a great challenge. Their work went from the pedestrian to the magnificent. Not a part of Arizona was unaffected.