The Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC (1933-1942) was a federally funded Great Depression program to bring “together with two wasted resources, the young men and the land, in an attempt to save them both.” Young men, ages 17 to 24, unemployed and almost always from families on welfare signed up for six months stints at national parks, national forest, state parks, and other public lands across the nation. Although each CCC enrollee was paid $30 per month he was required to contribute $25 to his family. (Since his accommodations, medical care, food and clothing were supplied this was not a problem.) At Grand Canyon, seven companies (averaging 200 men) worked at the North Rim, Phantom Ranch, the South Rim, and Desert View.
At Phantom Ranch, during three winters the CCC enrollees built the swimming pool (now filled in), the River Resthouse, and the present-day Bright Angel Campground. Their trail work included the Colorado River Trail, the Clear Creek Trail, and the Ribbons Falls Trail. They, along with South Rim and North Rim companies, built the first reliable rim-to-rim phone line. While much of the CCC work such as trail construction was inherently dangerous no CCC enrollees lost their lives at work. Companies working at Phantom Ranch frequently worked the summer months on the North Rim.
On the North Rim CCC work included: installing fence lines and phone lines, constructing water and sewer lines, doing landscaping, fighting fires, maintaining the North Kaibab Trail, and constructing buildings. The present-day North Rim Lodge parking lot stone wall is a CCC project.
On the South Rim, CCC projects were everywhere. They assisted (with other New Deal programs) with the construction of the rustic rim, stone wall from Verkamps to the Bright Angel Lodge. Here they assisted with rescues; built fences and telephone lines and power lines; constructed the Bright Angel Trail Resthouses; improved Shoshone Point; built the South Kaibab Trail Cedar Ridge fossil display; constructed fire roads and campgrounds; assisted with the Community Building construction; constructed warehouse buildings and ranger residences (most are still in use); built water reservoirs including the Eremita Mesa Reservoir; staffed visitor centers; obliterated old roads and trails; plowed snow; rebuilt the rim trail and more.
Desert View (as well as Pasture Wash) got its first reliable telephone line from the CCC. At Desert View, the CCC enrollee work included: building the campground and remodeling Tusayan Museum; they maintained the road to Cedar Mountain; they built trails and fences; landscaped the East Rim Drive; helped with rescues; built a stone restroom building near the Watchtower; and built a stone wall at Desert View Point.
From 1933 to 1943 the Grand Canyon was a place of furious activity. The CCC, along with other New Deal programs including the CWA, PWA, and WPA, was responsible for unprecedented infrastructure improvements throughout the park. One estimate is that fifty years of work was accomplished in a little more than nine years. Nationwide over three million young men were CCC enrollees. Many learned valuable job skills and life lessons. Often they went on to serve honorably in World War II. Tens of thousands of poor families were fed and clothed by the enrollee $25 monthly stipend.
Nationwide the CCC planted over three billion trees; constructed over 89,000 miles of telephone lines; built over 28,000 miles of trails; constructed over 126,000 miles of truck trails; and built 800 new state parks. More than one CCC enrollee said the Corps saved him from a life of crime. “It saved my life” said one Arizona enrollee.