CCC at Colorado National Monument

Photo of the CCC's headquarters at Colorado National Monument
The CCC's headquarters at Colorado National Monument


The work on Rim Rock Drive had started in 1930 due to an influx of federal funding and local relief funding to ease unemployment. The work was done by residents of Grand Junction and other communities in the valley. Annually funds were needed to continue work on the road. By 1933, the combination of additional visitation to the park, portions of the road being finished, and the impact the work had on local unemployment helped to convince national representatives to bring the CCC to the monument.

Colorado National Monument was one of the first parks to take advantage of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The executive order was signed on April 5, 1933, and men were at the monument setting up the first of three camps on May 21, 1933.

Black & white photo looking down a hillside at a variety of buildings along a road. Men are standing along the road. Canyons are in background.
CCC Camp NM-1 (also named NP-8) is perched above Monument Canyon.

NPS Photo.

The CCC program at the monument ran until November 16, 1942, when it ended due to World War II. Three different camps operated within the monument during that time frame.
  • NM-1/NPS-8 was the first camp and was located at today's trailhead for Upper Monument Canyon trail. In 1933 it was occupied by Company 824, in 1938-1939 it was occupied by Company 2123 and 1940 - 1942 was occupied by Company 3892.
  • NM-2 was the longest running of the camps. It sat below the Saddlehorn rock formation near the present day visitor center. It was occupied by Company 824 from late 1933 through 1942. In 1936 and 1937 a Works Progress Administration company joined Company 824 at NM-2. In 1939 a Federal Emergency Relief Administration vocational camp was housed at NM-2.
  • NM-3 was the third camp at the monument. In 1933 it started at a location between Glade Park and the monument and in 1934 was moved to a location in the valley near the monument's Fruita entrance. Company 825 occupied it until 1937 when the camp was closed.
Two CCC workers using a pulley to lift a rock onto a cart
Two workers use a pulley to move rocks.
After building housing for themselves, the primary project of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) at Colorado National Monument was constructing the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive. In addition to the CCC workers, Local Experienced Men (LEM) were also hired. These were typically older men from the surrounding area who had experience in the work the camp was conducting. They provided leadership, education, and guidance to the younger men.

While some of the work was done with explosives, most of the movement of rock and dirt was done with hand tools. CCC projects were usually designed for heavy unskilled labor because they were designed to put a large number of men to work for a long period of time. In some areas rock needed to be removed and the material was moved to areas which needed to be built up. Over 8 years approximately 20 miles of the road, over 200 culverts, 3 tunnels and 6 overlooks were fit/sculpted into the landscape to best show off the magnificent mesas and canyons.

The work was not without danger. On December 12, 1933 nine men were killed in a rockslide and collapse. All of these men were Local Experienced Men who lived in the community. They were clearing debris after explosive work which had been designed to carve a “half-tunnel.” The overhanging rock collapsed.
CCC workers building a structure

MR Douglass 1938 Photo Collection


The most easily observed aspect of the 1930’s work along Rim Rock Drive is the rock guard walls and the stonework at the overlooks. The rock for these was quarried on site and hand shaped for placement on the walls. Mortar was used to hold the rocks together. These walls line many miles of the road and are found at most of the overlooks. Today’s historic mason crew uses the same techniques these young men learned so many years ago.

The CCC also constructed several buildings in the monument. The most readily visible to the public is the Stone House alternatively known as the Saddlehorn Caretaker's Residence or the Custodian's Residence. The style exemplifies National Park Service Rustic Architecture. A couple of interesting details to note are the stone stoop at the front of the building, the recessed, chiseled stone window openings with stone sills and lintels. The garage has mirror image stones on each side. This stone house and accompanying garage is near the visitor center and is now used for administrative offices.

Other projects the crews worked on included the Devil’s Kitchen Picnic Shelter, the Saddlehorn Campground and stone comfort station (Loop C), Saddlehorn Utility Area, and the bison fence on the north east side of the monument. Crews also spent time on landscaping, constructing water lines, building fire places for the campground, and other smaller scale projects.
Room with 10 wooden tables and benches in two rows. 6 table settings with plate, silverware and coffee cup at each table. Men are seated at the far table.
CCC Camp Mess Hall

Ottis Littlejohn Collection

Camp Life

Typically, men enrolled for a six-month period. They were organized into companies of about 200 men. These companies were then sent to camps scattered throughout the country, administered by the War Department. The men working at Colorado National Monument lived in one or more of 4 camps. The use of the camps changed over the 8 years and some companies used more than one camp during their six months.

Camps were usually made up of barracks, offices, mess halls, and an infirmary. Several of the monument camps also included a library and recreation facilities. Education opportunities were an added bonus for many who joined the CCC. In fact, many completed their high school education while serving. Leadership advancement positions with an increase in pay were also offered to hard-workers.


Use the slider to compare the same area at Saddlehorn from 1938 to 2021.

black and white photo of several long, wooden barracks-style buildings with a central courtyard, canyon cliffs in the background black and white photo of several long, wooden barracks-style buildings with a central courtyard, canyon cliffs in the background

Left image
CCC Camp Buildings at Saddlehorn
Credit: MR Douglass 1938 Photo Collection

Right image
Present day area of CCC Camp without buildings, after materials were moved and repurposed during wartime
Credit: NPS Photo / N Scarborough

Last updated: March 6, 2024

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Fruita, CO 81521


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