Big Bend
Administrative History
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Saving the Last Frontier: Texas, Mexico, and the Big Bend National Park Initiative, 1930-1935

Despite the bold statements of Carlyle Raht about the virtues of the Anglo frontier of west Texas, by 1930 few residents could share his optimism for their future. The nation, the American West, the Republic of Mexico, and the Big Bend country faced the most devastating economic and ecological crisis of their histories, in the form of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Prosperity generated by the war in Europe and the subsequent spending spree of the 1920s had convinced many that the good times would last forever. Once the reality of economic and social collapse struck the nation, all shared the need to find solutions to unemployment and environmental degradation resulting from poor farming and ranching practices. The change of presidential administrations in Washington, DC, and Mexico City, in the mid-1930s ushered in a revolutionary concept: preservation of what local residents loved to call the nation's "last frontier," and to connect its vast acreage of mountains, streams, and desert to the equally striking landscape south of the Rio Grande in an international park.

Interest in some sort of national park facility in west Texas began as early as 1921, when a group of civic officials petitioned the Texas state legislature to identify lands within the Davis Mountains for a state park. The rise of tourism generated by the popularization of automobile travel, and the passage in 1916 of the Federal Highway Act, opened the region to visitors seeking the exotica and wonders of the Far West. In 1924, an Alpine doctor and state senator, Benjamin F. Berkeley, asked William C. Boyd of the Texas Fish, Game, and Oyster Commission about establishment of a 25,000-acre park in the Chisos Mountains. The following year, U.S. Representative Claude Hudspeth introduced in Congress a resolution to appropriate $100,000 to purchase lands in the Davis Mountains. This idea died in committee, but it stimulated interest among local and state leaders to plan for road construction in and around the storied military post of Fort Davis. Nothing came of the initiatives for parks in the Davis and Chisos ranges, and Texas promoters of tourism and travel looked elsewhere in the late 1920s to invest their time and resources. [1]

Private-sector interest in the Big Bend area resurfaced in 1929, when J.J. Willis, an automobile dealer from Odessa, Texas, purchased the abandoned property surrounding Glenn Springs with plans to convert the former military post into an exclusive hunting preserve for West Texas residents. The collapse of the New York Stock Exchange that year inhibited the plans of Willis for his "Chisos Mountains Club." He had wanted to stock his 25,000 acres with game animals indigenous to the Big Bend area. Few investors showed much interest in this enterprise, given the loss of 50 percent of the nation's industrial output and the closing of banks and savings institutions daily. [2]

Willis was but one of many disappointed business people who had hoped to reap profits from the Big Bend country. The historian Gerald D. Nash, in The American West in the Twentieth Century (1977), wrote that "everywhere western dreams for sustained economic growth lay shattered." Farm and ranch income in Texas and the West fell more than 50 percent, while oil prices (the source of Texas' prosperity in the 1920s) declined from $2.50 per barrel in 1929 to ten cents per barrel four years later. Richard W. Lowitt, author of The New Deal and the West (1984), declared that "depression, drought, and dust undermined dependence on the marketplace as an arbiter of activities." In 1931, the famed University of Texas historian, Walter Prescott Webb, released his magisterial study of life in the arid West, The Great Plains. Writing at the dawn of the Depression, as the drought conditions of the "dirty thirties" had just commenced, Webb warned his readers that "the failure to recognize the fact that the Plains destroyed the old formula of living and demanded a new one led the settlers into disaster, the lawmakers into error, and leads all who will not see into confusion." [3]

As the Great Depression lengthened, the Texas state legislature began a search for economic relief, an idea disturbing to people who identified as independent and hardy. Yet the desperation facing the nation led its conservative Republican president, Herbert T. Hoover (1929-1933), to seek liberal use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to include public lands in the national park system that contained "man-made wonders or scientific curiosities." A young state representative from Abilene, Robert M. Wagstaff, received inspiration in December 1930 from an article on the Big Bend area in the magazine Nature. Interviewed a dozen years later by his hometown Abilene Reporter-News upon the occasion of the 1944 opening of Big Bend National Park, Wagstaff recalled being "impressed by the fact that apparently Texas had scenic beauties comparable to those of Colorado." Wagstaff was "determined to look into the question of whether a state or national park could be established in Texas." He then approached J.H. Walker, state land commissioner, during the 1931 session of the legislature to ascertain "whether or not there might be a considerable amount of state-owned land within the area, which might be included in a state park." [4]

Historians of Big Bend National Park, and NPS officials in the 1930s, often credit the park's origins to Everett Townsend, who on March 3, 1933, coauthored House Bill No. 771 to create "Texas Canyons State Park." Yet the impetus for that legislation included Wagstaff's inquiry two years earlier to J.H. Walker, who "'became very much interested in the matter and made a careful check of the area.'" Wagstaff recalled that Walker "'decided that it would be better to delay action a couple of years on account of the fact that some of the most desirable lands for a park, adjoining the main [Rio Grande] canyons, had been forfeited for non-payment of interest, but were still subject to reinstatement.'" The Texas lawmakers did, however, agree that year to adopt Senate Concurrent Resolution 9, which called upon the federal government to conduct an immediate survey of potential parklands in the Lone Star state for inclusion in the national park system. J. Frank Dobie, the noted writer of Texas frontier novels, echoed these sentiments with his call in 1930 for a park in the "wild Big Bend." The Hoover administration further whetted the appetite of local interests by declaring no fewer than nine western areas as "national monuments" in the waning days of his administration. One of these was the 250,000-acre gypsum field of New Mexico's Tularosa basin that became White Sands National Monument. Momentum for creation of parks like Big Bend had accelerated, believed Wagstaff, strengthening his resolve in the 1933 session of the Texas legislature to pursue his dream of a park for west Texas. [5]

The arrival in Washington, DC, in March 1933 of the presidential administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt meant much to the champions of Big Bend National Park. The harshness of four years of economic collapse led FDR and his advisors to press for imaginative and experimental solutions; the process known as the "New Deal." Michael Kammen, author of Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture (1991), referred to Roosevelt's "distinctive capacity to connect innovation with tradition." Kammen noted that "American society increasingly needed and sought a meaningful sense of its heritage in crisis times," further commenting that "had there not been a Great Depression, it might have taken considerably longer for government at any level to concern itself with American history, myths, and museums." This latter point would be crucial to the success of any effort to bring Big Bend National Park into the NPS system, as the park service had included only areas of great scenic beauty; "crown jewels," in the words of many park admirers. As Richard Sellars noted, "the 1930s saw a vast diversion of Park Service programs, which expanded responsibility beyond management of mostly larger natural areas and drew attention to matters other than nature preservation." [6]

Robert Wagstaff did not know on Texas Independence Day (March 2, 1933) that his bill to set aside fifteen sections of land around the Rio Grande canyons of Santa Elena, Mariscal, and Boquillas, would become by 1944 the first national park in Texas. His colleagues approved of the measure in short order, but problems that would plague the formation of the park for the next decade required another version for a special legislative session that September. Section 2 of the new park bill held that "the legislature of the State of Texas hereby withdraws from sale all unsold Public Free School Lands situated in Brewster County, Texas, South of North Latitude 29 degrees, 25 minutes; and said lands, estimated to consist of about 150,000 acres." The name of the park also would be changed from "Texas Canyons State Park" to the "Big Bend State Park." These school lands would be valued at one cent per acre for payment to the Public School Fund (or the sum of $1,500.00). Wagstaff and co-sponsor Townsend also agreed in the amended bill that "all minerals in and under the above described sections of land are hereby reserved to the Public School Fund, to be developed under present or future laws as minerals under other unsold school land." Section Five of the new bill indicated the hopes of its sponsors for federal inclusion of Big Bend in the NPS network of parks: "The fact that the State of Texas owns additional lands located near the Canyons of the Rio Grande and in the Chisos Mountains of Texas, which are suitable for park purposes, and that Federal aid will probably be secured to improve said lands if they are taken over for park purposes." Wagstaff and Townsend then cautioned their legislative peers that "steps should be taken immediately to set aside said lands before they are acquired by private parties;" a condition that "creates an emergency and an imperative public necessity." [7]

In between the signing on May 27, 1933, of the original park bill by Texas governor Miriam (Ma) Ferguson, and her endorsement five months later of the vastly expanded Big Bend State Park, the Alpine Chamber of Commerce assumed the lead in gaining regional support for the proposed park site. Local sponsors, preeminent among them James Casner, a recent arrival in town who had bought the local Chevrolet auto dealership, knew that Congress that spring had passed legislation to create the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This program, part of the heady "First Hundred Days" of legislation signed by FDR between March and June 1933, had as one of its goals, said Sellars, "protection of the nation's forests from fires, insects, and disease damage - goals that matched perfectly those of most national park managers." The CCC included a state parks assistance program that attracted the attention of the Alpine chamber of commerce, which brought to the attention of park service officials in Denver, Colorado, the merits of including their favored location. If Brewster County could receive one of the CCC's 600 units, 200 young men would soon arrive, earning $30 per month. Their employers also would stimulate the west Texas economy with purchases of construction materials, food, clothing, and shelter. [8]

CCC camps were not easy to acquire in the first weeks of the program, and the Big Bend sponsors had to wait until May 1934 to welcome the program to their area. Conrad Wirth, assistant director of the NPS (eventually to become director of the system), wrote in July 1933 to Herbert T. Maier, director of the NPS's Denver office of state park conservation, to express his concerns about the efforts of promoters of parks in the Big Bend and Davis Mountains. Maier had offered to travel to west Texas to examine the sites, but Wirth preferred to wait until the NPS's premier authority on potential park locations, Roger Toll, would be able to leave his post as superintendent of Yellowstone National Park and visit Big Bend. Wirth cautioned Maier that "the meager reports we have on these areas . . . would not indicate that they measure up to National Park calibre." The assistant NPS director did offer hope that "these reports do indicate that [Big Bend and the Davis Mountains] are excellent State Park material so perhaps they should be retained and developed as State parks." Since Wirth's office could not guarantee support for the Texas units, he also did not see how they could be included in the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) program, an alternative to the CCC. [9]

Aware that politics affected park creation as did economics and aesthetics, the Alpine chamber of commerce undertook their own campaign for Big Bend. Chamber director Forest Robinson called upon local business leaders to speak on behalf of the merits of the CCC, and to promise financial support if necessary. James Casner and his colleagues convinced Herbert Maier that they needed not one, but two CCC camps in the Chisos Mountains (a total of 400 employees). F.A. Dale, Texas district inspector for the CCC program, wrote in September 1933 to Major John D. Guthrie, commander of the Eighth Corps Area of the U.S. Army (which oversaw the operations of the camps). Dale suggested that both camps be located at Government Springs, as the "camp site and water" had been "placed under lease by the Chisos Mountainspark committee and the Brewster County Chamber of Commerce." The sites had access to Marathon, and would consist of employees transferred from other CCC districts. Dale then offered the logic that would prevail for the remainder of the planning process for Big Bend: "The National Park Service is particularly interested in this park on account of its outstanding qualities as a wilderness and recreational area." [10]

The reality of CCC funding, and the need for the NPS to understand the merits of Big Bend, affected the negotiation process attempted by the Alpine chamber and other champions of a national park for Texas. Herbert Maier, now the ECW district officer for Texas, wrote to Conrad Wirth in Washington in early October 1933 to warn him that "I have told the Chisos [Mountain] people that the camps as first recommended for their area could not be awarded because two camps had to be withdrawn from the Texas list for Arizona." Budget constraints (the bane of many New Deal programs throughout the 1930s) required Maier to judge the Big Bend proposal carefully, and his decision revolved around the obstacles of distance and isolation. "The Chisos Mt. camps," said Maier, "were decided upon for this switch because of their high altitude and very long dirt road." Maier would disappoint backers of a CCC camp in Bastrop, Texas, "since the unfortunate reduction in the total number of Texas camps makes it desirous to spread the camps around as much as possible in the light of so many applications." Bastrop had offered the NPS some 2,000 acres of land on the chance that three camps would be awarded. The selection of a west Texas site had become more complicated, and raised the stakes for the Alpine chamber as the NPS calculated the benefits of Big Bend. [11]

As Maier struggled to balance the Big Bend request with the onslaught of applications for CCC work, his district inspector continued to echo the sentiments of local promoters from Alpine. On October 6, 1933, Dale again reminded Maier that, "considering scenery, climate, flora, fauna, and Indian relics, there is nothing approaching [Big Bend] closer than Colorado." ECW personnel who had visited the area judged it "as far superior to Palo Duro Canyon;" the area south of Amarillo being promoted for NPS inclusion for its connection to the Coronado expedition of 1541-42. "The Big Bend district," said Dale, "may not have much influence, but it certainly has the best park possibility now offered in Texas." He encouraged Maier to move quickly, as "the next six months have practically no rainfall - hence no objection from the Army on account of unbridged creeks, etc." Dale also noted that the Army had rejected calls for a CCC camp at "Santa Helena" in June because of "excessive heat." Should Maier adopt the Chisos Basin site, Dale believed that "the area would be used extensively by vacationists from all over Texas and possibly adjoining states." He rationalized that the Chisos "and the Davis and Guadalupe Mountains are the only cool spots in Texas in the summer." The state of Texas could be counted upon to improve the road from Marathon to the park, said Dale, "which would put the area within one and one-half days drive of Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin." Dale then closed his plea to Maier with the suggestion that "here is an opportunity of raise the standards of the E.C.W. parks in Texas," as Texas' natural attractions suffered in comparison to the more striking physical beauty of the Rocky Mountains and the desert Southwest. [12]

Herbert Maier would define this contrast more clearly when he wrote on October 12, 1933, to Everett Townsend, apologizing for rejection of the Chisos camps after his favorable recommendation. Texas had to reduce the number of CCC sites from 17 to 14, and the Army's judgment about the "Saint Helena" camp influenced its thinking about the entire Big Bend area. The park service remained committed to promotion of the site, given the imperatives of the New Deal to improve the economic life of the nation, and the political realities of including Texas in the net of services and programs emanating from Congress. George L. Nason, director the NPS's state parks division in Oklahoma City, asked Professor B.C. Tharp of the department of biology and bacteriology at the University of Texas, for his opinion of Big Bend. Tharp in turn supplied Nason with a research paper written by C.H. Mueller, one of his graduate students who in the summers of 1931 and 1932 had conducted fieldwork in the Chisos Mountains. While Tharp encouraged Nason to engage in much more thorough analysis of the area, he agreed with Mueller that "this region is of outstanding scientific value by virtue of the fact that it is the meeting place within the United States of representatives from Mexico and from the Rocky Mountain systems lying to the north." In addition, the Big Bend area housed "a rather surprising number of eastern species and of species from the arid west." Big Bend's scientific value from the standpoint of vegetation, Tharp claimed, was "further enhanced by virtue of the fact that the Chisos Mountains are not a range but rather a 'heap' whose diameter is essentially equal in whatever direction it is measured." The height of the mountains "above the surrounding plain is relatively greater than that of other mountains in the state," even though "the altitude above sea level is somewhat less than the maximum." [13]

None of these testimonials to the beauty and power of the Big Bend landscape mattered as much as the report filed by Roger Toll. The Yellowstone superintendent ventured through the future park site from January 8 to 11, 1934, accompanied by J. Evetts Haley of the history department of the University of Texas, Everett Townsend, John W. Gillette, president of the Alpine chamber of commerce, local rancher Homer Wilson (who also served as the outfitter for the surveying party), and other NPS officials. In a letter to Arno Cammerer, director of the Interior department's office of national parks, buildings and reservations in Washington, Toll spoke to the concerns of the Army and the park service regarding Big Bend's inclusion in the NPS system. "The Chisos Mountains . . . have attractive vegetation with some trees and plants not found elsewhere in the United States," Toll reported, and "the view from the South Rim is highly spectacular." The canyons of Santa Elena, Mariscal, and Boquillas had "spectacular gorges, from 1,000 to 1,500 feet deep," which the Yellowstone superintendent considered (along with the Chisos Mountains) to be "the chief scenic features of the area." Toll judged the Big Bend to be "a wilderness area," marked by its aridity and its "very sparse population." Most of the economic activity revolved around the raising of cattle, sheep and goats, as well as "mercury ores and some other mineral deposits." Toll thus agreed with F.A. Dale that "the Big Bend Country seems to be decidedly the outstanding scenic area of Texas." Should the NPS construct a road to the three canyons and the Chisos, "the area would offer a scenic trip that would be of national interest." He further warned Cammerer: "The area will not have many visitors until the facilities of access and accommodation are provided." [14]

No sooner had Toll left the Big Bend area (and before he could file his report to his superiors in Denver and Washington), local supporters of the park resumed their lobbying efforts among state park and NPS officials. D.E. Colp, chairman of the Texas state parks board, wrote to Herbert Maier in early February 1934 to ask that he "discuss this with Mr. Roger W. Toll as he inspected this property and I am sure the NPS would place a good deal of confidence in whatever he had to say about it." Colp informed Maier that "it is our plan to acquire something like one million acres in this area by getting small amounts at each session of the Legislature." He then mentioned for the first time that "we are working out a plan with the Mexican Government with a like amount on the Mexican side of the river." This venture to incorporate one million acres on each side of the international boundary arose because of a change in leadership in the Republic of Mexico. Lazaro Cardenas became president of Mexico in the spring of 1934, offering a dramatic departure for his impoverished nation that included redistribution of lands from the wealthy to the masses, an increase in educational opportunity, and social reforms to improve the daily lives of Mexican citizens. Cardenas' governing agenda, in the words of Lane Simonian, author of Defending the Land of the Jaguar (1996), included reversal of Mexico's tradition of exploitation of natural resources, and preservation of the environment because "people's well-being depended upon the maintenance of stable ecosystems." [15]

Over the next several months, the concerns of the Big Bend sponsors revolved not around Mexico, but the sense that the NPS and Congress had changed their minds about their CCC application. D.E. Colp ranked the "Chisos Mountains Park" fourth in priority for the Texas state parks board, behind Palo Duro Canyon, Bastrop, and the Davis Mountains. Harry L. Dunham, ECW district inspector in Austin, informed Maier in February 1934 that the Chisos camp sponsors had secured the backing of U.S. Representatives Robert Ewing Thomason of El Paso, Thomas R. Blanton of Abilene, and R.M. Kleberg of Corpus Christi. The overpowering beauty of the Big Bend, felt Dunham, more than compensated for the cost of facility and road construction to the remote site. "You will note," Dunham advised Maier upon submission of the Texas request, "that the estimates on the road items are less than 50% of the estimated total man hours." Land acquisition costs likewise had been reduced, as the original 225,000-acre request had shrunk to 105,000 acres. Dunham believed that the NPS could not justify work on park lands that it could not acquire easily, and the latter figure represented acreage already under the parks board's control. Other budget items in the CCC proposal that Dunham highlighted for his superiors included the need for a "rock quarry" in the Basin, some $2,000 to drill a well, and monies for fighting forest fires around the CCC camp. "I learned yesterday from Mr. Townsend," Dunham wrote, "that within reasonable distances from the probable camp site there are very large capacity springs of potable water." As for fire suppression, said Dunham: "We assumed that while there had been a few, if any fires in the Chisos area up to now, it is entirely possible that the advent of some 600 men into the area might occasion fire." [16]

Based upon the remarks of Harry Dunham, the appeals of the Alpine chamber, and the impending report of Roger Toll, Herbert Maier moved quickly to submit the Big Bend State Park application to his superiors in Washington. Maier told Conrad Wirth in February 1934 that "the name, Big Bend, is being used because it is the ambition of the [Texas] Park Board to finally acquire the whole Big Bend area of a million acres for a National Park." The NPS wanted three CCC units, "all to become located at one point in the Green Gulch in the Chisos Mountains." The park service's initial reviews of potential work included twenty miles of truck trails, 72 miles of fencing, an undetermined number of horse and foot trails, as well as over-night cabins, a concession building, and a telephone line. Maier, operating on Toll's statement to him of the merits of Big Bend, asked if the NPS realized "that the work would be outlined down there in such a way as to tie in with the final master plan for a national park," a task that Maier conceded "is not an easy thing to do." Toll further worried about "what effect our activity will have on the values placed on land still to be purchased by the state." In a telephone conversation between Colp, Toll, and Maier, Colp reported that "the people down in that part of the country have promised various parcels of land with the idea that either a state or national park will become an actuality." Maier worried that "since they [local landowners] have been turned down on [CCC] camps both in the first and second periods [of 1933-34], they will lose all confidence in the project if it is turned down." [17]

To expedite the Big Bend request, Maier and Toll offered suggestions for the location of roads, trails, and buildings that revealed the distinctiveness (and the cost) of CCC work. Toll argued that "three roads will eventually run up the walls of the Rio Grande Canyon onto the plateau above, and thence across this plateau partly over existing roads up to and through the Chisos Mountains." Toll and Maier called for CCC work at Santa Elena, as "the state now owns two or three sections of land suitable for a camp." The NPS, however, would need at least two camps there, as "a road leading up the walls of the Rio Grande Canyon would have to be practically their sole project." Another site of interest to Maier and Toll was Green Gulch, "which will always be the natural entrance way to the park from the west, and to which one can drive at the present time." Maier called for a camp there with primary tasks of "building . . . foot and horse trails, the developing of water, some overnight cabins, and above everything else a survey of the road from here on." The NPS would need special permission to "devote 90% of the [CCC] activity to the building of this road," as the CCC preferred spending the bulk of its funds on preservation projects. Maier saw Roger Toll's opinion as influential with the CCC, and "we might justify this as 100% conservation in that everything done in the area, whether road or otherwise, is being carried toward the permanent conservation of the area." [18]

More than road and trails, the search for water in the Chisos Basin concerned Maier and Toll as they promoted the new Texas park. D.E. Colp had assured Maier that "the water up in Green Gulch . . . will surely pass inspection this time," and the parks board chairman "intends to sink a well with CWA [Civil Works Administration] labor and have the water ready in plenty of time before the camps are installed." While Maier wondered how the state could guarantee funding for such a speculative venture as well-drilling, he noted that "Colp has a way of obtaining his objectives in the end." Colp knew the director of the Texas relief commission, and CWA officials in Texas acquiesced to Colp's wishes. This pattern of political maneuvering also concerned the NPS in matters of land ownership, as Toll did not believe that Texas had unrestricted access to the 105,000 acres projected for Big Bend State Park. In addition, Colp had succeeded in acquiring passage in the Texas state legislature of a measure allocating $50,000 for the Big Bend CCC program, and the state senate and the governor seemed equally inclined to support Colp. "You have certainly got to hand it to him," Maier told Wirth, and concluded about the camps: "Although we may not go into this thing, taking it all in I think it deserves to be classed as an 'A' project." [19]

Once Colp had convinced Maier to advance the Texas proposals, the latter official turned to Roger Toll on February 19, 1934, for more specific details. Toll compared the process for creation of a Big Bend National Park to that recently used with Tennessee's Great Smokies, Virginia's Shenandoah, Kentucky's Mammoth Cave, and Minnesota's Isle Royale national parks. "The danger of doing any development before the park has been established and the land secured," said Toll, "is that the valuation of the land will be increased by having the State and the Federal Government committed to the project, and by the expenditure for roads and other development on near by [sic] land." The Yellowstone superintendent realized "the urge to start development with relief funds that are now available, but which may not be available in later years." He asked Maier to secure from Colp maps of the proposed park site, including notation of the state lands. Toll closed his recommendations by encouraging a first camp at Santa Elena, because of its access to water from the Rio Grande, as opposed to the Chisos Basin, where "the water supply is doubtful and the [CCC] men could not begin immediately on road work." [20]

Any delay in establishment of the camps threatened the plans and dreams of the Big Bend promoters, as Colp had estimated a direct cash infusion of $200,000 into Brewster County within six months of the creation of a CCC facility. In March 1934, Colp met in Alpine with the Alpine chamber of commerce, calling upon them to purchase even one quarter-section (160 acres) in the Chisos Basin to demonstrate their commitment to the NPS and Congress. The release of Roger Toll's highly favorable report encouraged the chamber to fund its own search for water supplies. Herbert Maier wrote to Conrad Wirth on April 9 to warn Washington officials of the NPS that "the water question in the Chisos Mountains has not as yet been settled to the satisfaction of the Army." Chamber officials first had approached rancher Waddy Burnham, owner of substantial water rights in the Basin, to sell the needed supply to the CCC. When Burnham refused, Everett Townsend convinced the Alpine boosters to join with the CWA to fund the drilling of two wells. The chamber employed Dr. Charles Baker, chairman of the geology department at Texas A&M University, to determine the location of a steady supply of water. On April 16, 1934, Townsend's crew tapped a source of water at the foot of Pulliam Bluff on the north side of the Basin that released eight gallons per minute, three gallons more than the minimum standard used by the Army. This discovery triggered the rush to approve the CCC camp, and to begin the hiring of its 200 employees. [21]

While Brewster County park advocates reveled in their good fortune, in the spring and summer of 1934 the NPS accelerated the process of park surveys. By the end of that year, the park service had a much clearer idea of the opportunities and challenges awaiting Big Bend National Park. Yet the NPS also faced similar demands for reviews and planning throughout the country as its share of responsibility grew for economic recovery and resource preservation. The experimental nature of the CCC and related work programs, the lack of any experience with long-range planning for government employment programs, and the costs of operations in the isolated conditions of Big Bend rendered the exercise problematic for the NPS, even as state officials moved legislation through Congress toward incorporation of the site as the 27th national park.

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Last Updated: 03-Mar-2003