Uncovering Civilian Conservation Corps Camps in Rocky Mountain National Park

Camp NP-3-C
Camp NP-3-C at Beaver Creek.

Butler 2006, Fig. 9

The Civilian Conservation Corps was one of many relief programs created during the Great Depression (1929-1939). Over time the stories of this experience became buried. Now, archeological excavations are revealing what daily life and work was like for the millions of young men who participated in the program.

From 1933 to 1942, the CCC employed young, unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 25. These men enlisted for six months to work on conservation projects across the country. They were given housing, meals, clothing, and $30 a month in wages--$5 of which they were allowed to keep and $25 of which was sent back to their families.

Many CCC projects were done within national parks. War Department officers ran camp life while National Park Service staff assigned daily project work. Enlisted men cleared and built roads, constructed bridges and other structures, laid water pipe lines, created fish ponds, performed trail maintenance, felled and sawed lumber for park projects, and even fought fires and performed search and rescue operations.

At Rocky Mountain National Park, six CCC camps were built between (five within the park itself and one just outside the park’s boundaries), as well as two temporary “stub camps” located closer to project areas. At their peak, these camps housed hundreds of CCC workers. They were often laid out in a linear pattern and contained many types of structures such as quartering tents for both enlisted men and officers, large hospital tents, mess and recreation halls, administrative offices, bathhouses, latrines, and supply rooms. Over time, temporary tents were replaced by wooden buildings. Some structures even had multiple chimneys, something the men were grateful for during the harsh winter months.
View of Camp NP-1-C in 2004.

Butler 2006, Fig. 3

Unfortunately, there is little evidence left of these workers’ daily lives while in the camps. The CCC itself cleared the grounds during the 1941-42 disbandment, and subsequent NPS land projects further covered the areas. Archeologists therefore relied on historic maps, photographs, and oral histories alongside excavations to locate and learn about the camps. Their findings helped to learn more about how these camps were constructed and what life was like within them.

Archeologists discovered several kinds of evidence. Cut terraces show where land was flattened for tents. Depressions in the ground display where privies, cellars, and roads were once located. Archeologists also identified foundations for the various camp structures that aligned with their locations in historical maps and photographs. Collected artifacts included pieces of window and bottle glass, utensils, and metal that had been used, broken, and discarded by CCC camp occupants or later individuals. All of these findings were digitally mapped using GIS (global positioning system) technology. These GIS maps helped archeologists not only track the context (location information) for each material, but also see how they related spatially to one another. Defining these relationships allowed archeologists to interpret how the men living at the camps used and moved throughout them every day.

This study shows how archeology helps understand one part of Rocky Mountain National Park’s many-layered history. While the CCC was only in the park for a few years, the men left a lasting impact upon the landscape. Through archeology, their experiences at Rocky Mountain can now be known.


Butler, William B. “The Archeology of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Rocky Mountain National Park.” National Park Service, 2006.

Butler, William B. The Historic Archeology of Rocky Mountain National Park. Intermountain Region, National Park Service, 2005.

Rocky Mountain National Park, specifically Park Administrative History Chapter 7: The Depression and the CCC. National Park Service.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Last updated: March 6, 2023