Civilian Conservation Corp — Yesterday and Today


As a baby boomer, I thought the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) first came into appearance in the United State as a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.  A national project that provided unskilled manual labor job related to conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments.  Boy, I was ever wrong!

One of the CCC’s local projects is the two sets of cabins at Palo Duro Canyon, only a short distance south of Amarillo, Texas.  The canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of Texas. It’s absolutely beautiful. In this blog, I’m sharing many of my own pictures, especially of the three stone cabins deep into the canyon built by the CCC. I’ve spent more than one night at the old “cow camp cabins”, as they are known, with a number of writers and friends.  We’ve actually filled up all three of the cow camp cabins, just like the workers who lived there while building the roads and bridges in the 1930’s.

But here comes my surprise. The future CCC was originated on June 16, 1775, nearly two and a half centuries ago, by General George Washington, who appointed Col. Richard Gridley as the first chief engineer of the Continental army.  In 1779, The Corps of Engineers was established by congress as part of the Continental army.  The engineers’ fortifications played an important role in many Revolutionary War battles, including the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Battles of Saratoga.

In 1802, Congress, supported by President Thomas Jefferson, established the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.  This was after recognizing the need for a national engineering capability.  For more than a quarter century, West Point remained the only engineering school in the U.S.  Congress also established the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which dates its continuous origin from 1802, and was started at West Point.  Until 1866, the academy superintendent was a military engineer.

Our nation repeatedly called upon the Army Engineers to perform civil works as well as engineering projects.  During the 1800’s, the Corps supervised construction of extensive coastal fortifications and built lighthouses, piers, and jetties, as well as mapping navigation channels. A Corp of Topographical Engineers, a separate unit in 1838-63, helped explore, survey, and map many regions of the new frontier.

During the Mexican War and Civil War, in addition to supplying many important commanders such as Robert E. Lee and George McClellan, the Corps of Engineers played important roles in mapping, road and bridge construction, fortifications, and siege craft.  The 2,170 foot pontoon bridge built across the James River in June 1864 was the longest floating bridge erected before WWII. One of the army engineers, George W. Goethals, supervised the construction of the Panama Canal.

Now for the biggest surprise I found … The Corp of Engineers, thru their military role, shifted their attention away from the footprints of the United States to a military role, as seen in its construction of army and air force facilities in the buildup of the 1980’s Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, as well as peacekeeping operations in other parts of the world.


Please tell us two things.  First, did you realize the CCC, as we know it today, was founded so many years ago? And, secondly, where is your favorite place to go, relax, and enjoy the wonders of nature?  My answer … is spending time with friends in the cow camp cabins in Palo Duro Canyon.

To one lucky winner, I will give away an eCopy of your choice of my “Kasota Springs Romance” eBooks plus a $10.00 Bath and Bodyworks gift certificate.  The winner will be selected from those who leave a comment.

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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

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38 thoughts on “Civilian Conservation Corp — Yesterday and Today”

  1. Phyliss- good morning my fellow Texan, what a beautiful and informative article. You incorporated many details I did not know. I’ve read both of these wonderful. Oils, whoever wins is in for some fantastic reading. Love you dear lady. Your Kansas fan!!

    • Good morning, Miss Tonya my friend. I’m having to take deep breaths at the moment. I answered probably half of the comments and for whatever reason, they disappeared. I’m sure it’s something I did, since I’m using my new computer and am not accustomed to 10 yet! So I’m sorry for being late. I’m back to rewriting! Here goes: So glad to hear from you and certainly pleased that you enjoyed the article. I love research, so got caught up in the information about how the original CCC got incorporated into day’s projects. I sure didn’t know the background and had no idea it went all the way back to the 1700’s! That’s the great thing about researching and writing blogs. Take care my Kansas BFF; and thank you for the kind words. Big Texas hugs, Phyliss

    • Good morning, Glenda. I sure didn’t know how old the CCC was either. I’m not familiar with the Oakmulgee National forest, but it’s certainly on my bucket list now. Thank you so much for adding the link. That was so thoughtful and I plan to go in and check out the forest as soon as I finish my comments. I can only imagine have such beauty in your backyard! I come from a family of fishermen and women, as does my husband, so I know the enjoyment of relaxing and spending the day in the beauty of the lake. Glenda, thanks so much for sharing your special place. Big Texas hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi Cathy, thanks so much for stopping by and reading my blog. You are definitely in the drawing, so check back late this evening to see if you won. Since I’m in the Central time zone, I try to give those on the west coast enough time to get home, take care of the family and read the blog before I select a winner. Again, thanks for dropping by. Hugs, Phyliss

  2. As always I learn so much from a blog when it is about something historical. I’ve been to Palo Duro Canyon many times because I lived in Hereford and Amarillo for a few years as a child. I’ve never been deep enough into the canyon to see the three cabins though. I’m not sure I could make the trek though. I have weak legs and bad balance from MS. Not to mention I’m deathly afraid of heights, as in, I liked my feet on a relatively flat surface. I have pushed myself ovee the years to do things I’m afraid of because of my height issues though.

    • Hi Stephanie, it’s so nice to hear from someone who is familiar with the canyon. I was born and raised in Amarillo. There are CCC cabins up on the top of the canyon, plus a huge Sorenson house where you can rent spaces, etc. I’ve never stayed in those, I like the ones they call the cow camp cabins at the bottom on the canyon. Those are the pictures I used. To tell you the truth, I’m terrified of heights and the winding road that takes you down scares me to death, but it’s worth it to me once we get to the water crossings and see all the wonderment of the canyon. Bless your heart for having MS. I have a friend who has it and I love your mantra of pushing yourself to do things that you are afraid of. I admire you for it! My DH and I took our grands to the Grand Canyon and I was scared to death almost all of the time. They were young and would get way too close to the edge for my liking. I don’t think I took a normal breath for the two days were spent there. Stephanie, I have over the years had friends named Ortiz and Cerrillo, and I’d really like to see if any of them are connected to your family. I’d love for you to contact me through my web-site or Facebook, so we can check and see if any of your family have and/or friends of ours. My granddaughter’s best friend is named Cerrillo. I’d love to hear from you. Stephanie thank you so much for comments on my blog and sharing such personal information as being scared of heights … I am, too; so no sky diving for us, huh? Big hugs, Phyliss

      • I seriously won’t sky dive but I’m even more scared of the landing than the height actually. My MS legs would buckle and it would be so painful. Ugh MS sucks. Your friends with Linda Broday! I just love Linda and she has MS. I’ll contact you. My oldest daughter father, my first husband, was an Ortiz out of El Paso, Texas. I mey him via mutual friends/family when my familt lived in El Paso. My youngest daughter’s father, my second husband is a Cerrillo. He lived in Athens, Texas and worked for my uncle. His family is from Juan Aldama, Zacatacus, Mexico. Tonya Lucas introduced me to Linda’s books and she or Linda gave me ‘Give me a Cowboy’, ‘A Texas Christmas’ and ‘Be my Texas Valentine’. I loved all three so i have read some of your short stories! Maybe I’ll come across some of your books soon.?

      • I forgot to say, we always took family and friends that visited to the canyon. I don’t know how many times we saw the same musical at the amphitheatre! We’d walk in the red river and explore but I couldn’t hike and climb around in the canyon unfortunately. I really need to go back as an adult because I don’t remember a lot aboyt it.

    • Thanks, Debra, for dropping by and reading my blog. It’s good to hear from you. I thought the research I found on the CCC was fascinating, so I figured it might make into a blog. I’m glad to see so many people, like me, who didn’t know it’s history. Again, thanks for dropping by. Big hugs, Phyliss

  3. I commented above but I forgot to say I haven’t had the pleasure of reading one of your books since I just started reading in October after decades of not reading. I’d love the opportunity to read your books because you have been highly recommend to me. I do believe you many have been an author in at least one of the multi-autjor books I’ve read and I loved those! Pick me! ?

    • Hi Stephanie. I’m gonna share something with you that’s personal. I didn’t read until I was in the 3rd grade (post-war baby living in a military town and going to school only a half a day). My mama read magazines, but never read a novel until I gave her one of Jodi Thomas’s books. She loved Jodi and fellow filly Linda Broday and had every book they had written when she passed. Yes, I am one of the authors of what we called in fun “The Give Me Girls” because we began our anthologies with Give Me a Texan, then Give Me a Cowboy and Give Me a Texas Ranger. Our Christmas anthology “A Texas Christmas” hit NYTimes and USA Today. Please, please tell whoever recommended me as a writer thank you, thank you. I’ve written mainly for Kensington, who is still my house, but also done some short stories for Prairie Rose Publications which is partially owed by fellow filly Cheryl Pierson. I hope you win, too! Big hugs, Phyliss

  4. I didn’t realize the CCC have been around that long. As far as the wonders on nature I love going back to the country where I was raised. There is just something about being out in the country that relaxes me.

    • Hi Quilt Lady, so good to hear from you. I’m thrilled to have blogged about something a lot of people didn’t know about. I’m totally with you on the outdoors, especially where you were raised. I agree that there is nothing better than the country to relax a person. I even love sitting on my porch and watching and listening to the birds. We have a huge weeping Mulberry tree and of course the birds love it…and the purple mulberries. I’m not too crazy about the purple “you know what” they leave, but I love the quietness and beauty of nature. Hope you have a wonderful day, Quilt Lady. Big Texas hugs, Phyliss

  5. Thank you for sharing your blog, Phyliss. I found it so very interesting and I loved your photos. Hope you have a great day.

    • Hi Melanie. Glad to hear from you and very pleased you enjoyed the blog. I wish I could have found more pictures of my own, but then there would have been too many pictures. It is beautiful to look out over the canyon as the sun sets. It’s a fantastic sight. We have to do all of the cooking outside and the inside sports, very rustic, sturdy ol’ fashioned bunkbeds with a wonderful fireplace. It’s beautiful. Hope you have a great day, too, Melanie. A big Texas hug especially for you, Phyliss

  6. What a fascinating and interesting post. I had no idea the CCC has been around so long. Thanks for sharing your pictures. Living in the north east we don’t have these beautiful sights.
    Carol L

    • Hi Carol. Good to hear from you. Like you, I was certainly surprised at how old the CCC is and all the various footprints it’s left on our country. I just wish I could have found and posted some of the other pictures. Sometimes it take a little searching to find a surprise in your own backyard. Those traveling through on Interstate 40, unless they know of the canyon, think this is the flattest place in America. It might well be, but we have a number of arms off Palo Duro Canyon which are beautiful, too. But they probably can’t imagine anything around here so pretty. Just lots of yucca and cows! Have a great day and big Texas hugs, Phyliss

  7. Thank you for such an interesting post, Miranda. I have the reverse experience to yours, though: I knew about the early establishment of the Corps of Engineers from my lifelong interest in early colonial history but I didn’t know about the CCC and its connection.

    Palo Duro Canyon sounds lovely; I hope I get to see it one day. We have our own “Grand Canyon”:
    “Pine Creek Gorge, sometimes called The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, is a 47-mile…gorge carved into the Allegheny Plateau by Pine Creek in north-central Pennsylvania.” The Allegheny Mountains are older and more rounded in appearance to the Rockies and other western mountain ranges though.

    To answer your second question, I live in the country and am fortunate to have some land, so my favorite place to be with nature is my own backyard. Before we got the property we now live on, though, Valley Forge National Park used to be a favorite place to visit and relax.

    Since I don’t have an e-reader, I wish all of the other posters luck in winning a Miranda book!

    • Hi Eliza, so good to hear from you. I’m thrilled that you know so much about the CCC and the Corps of Engineers. Palo Duro Canyon is truly lovely, but I know I’d love to see the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. It’s sounds beautiful. I’ve been around the Allegheny Mountains over my traveling years, but never took the time to check them out. Oh how I’d like to live in the country. I can imagine how much you’d enjoy your backyard. I’ve been to Valley Forge National Park, but never had enough time to truly check it out. Both go back into my bucket list! We have friends in Pennsylvania, so a trip might be in order. If I draw your name, Elisa, trust me, we’ll work out something to get you a book you don’t have. I’ll make it work. Have a great day, and I’m truly happy to hear from you, my friend. A big Texas hugs, Phyliss

  8. Good morning Phyllis. I knew that the CCC had been a program of the New Deal but I had no idea that an earlier program is attributed to George Washington. Here in Kentucky we have Cumberland Falls and this is my favorite place to visit. During a full moon a Moonbow is often visible at night and the only other place that this occurs is in Africa. Cumberland Falls has been referred to as the Niagara Falls of the South.
    Thanks for sharing this very interesting post and giveaway.

    • Hi Connie, thank for leaving your message. I’m like you, before I heard about the original CCC, I thought it came about during the New Deal, which of course, was very important to our country. I love Kentucky. I’ve got to check out Cumberland Falls and add it to my now overflowing bucket list. Niagara Falls of the South! Wonderful. We’ve been to Niagra Falls and it’s truly beautiful. We walked across the bridge into Canada and back. I wrote a scene in “The Texan and the Tycoon” where he asks her to marry him on the bridge between the US and Canada. He asked her in Texas and stepped back, so she answered him in Canada. They shared an international kiss! Connie, thanks for sharing your special places with us. I hope you have a wonderful afternoon. Big hugs, Phyliss

  9. I had no idea… as for places I like to go, I like where I live… I have beautiful mountains and lakes nearby to enjoy…

    • Oh my gosh, Colleen! What a happy answer…having beautiful mountains and lakes! I’m envious, but I love my town and the birds. We have a lot of mockingbirds, mourning doves, cardinals, bluebirds and good ol’ scrub jays. Once a year, we have wonderful, yellow birds who drop by for a day and then move on. I think they are warblers or goldfinchs but not sure. We have tons of plain ol’ sparrows. Not long ago, our grandson was here from college and he’d been late getting in. When I checked on him the next morning, he asked if I could please stop that pounding outside his window. I laughed and said that I couldn’t because it’s the mockingbird who sits on top of the corner light post and mocks morning newspaper deliveries! Have a great day Colleen, and I envey you! Hugs, Phyliss

  10. Phyliss, what an interesting blog. I didn’t know George Washington started the CCC. Wow! I loved spending those nights at Cow Camp with you! Except they don’t have a bathroom. Oh my dear Lord! Just knowing I didn’t have one, made me need to use it a lot more often than I do at night at home. And it was quite a ways to the public bathroom. In the dark. With creatures roaming about. Still, it was pretty cool sleeping in one of those.

    Love you!

    • Hi Miss Linda! I’m laughing so much because I forgot about the “no bathroom” problem, especially when there were four in our cabin. That’s too funny. I remember having to cook outside and having no iPhone connection! Yes, it was a far fetch to the bathroom and I’m not sure (and never asked) how many took a short trail and took care of business without making it all the way. I don’t think I could do it now! Oh, gosh, didn’t we have fun? It was truly relaxing, especially after a big conference. We really got in touch with our creativeness in the cow camp cabins. I know how busy you are, so sure happy you took the time to comment. Love you, too.

  11. Phyliss, my darling friend, what a terrific post! I had no idea of the CCC’s history, and for it to be born at the beginning of our country, wowzers!
    And I would love to visit those cabins although–hubs and I are off to Yosemite soon and the only lodging we could rent is tent cabins! No electricity. No bathrooms. I’ll have to let you know how much rusticness I can survive. The pix of Palo Duro are so glorious but I get sickened when I think of all the Comanche horses the US Cavalry slaughtered way back then to weaken and decimate the tribes. Definitely nothing I learned about in school.

    Yup…hoping there aren’t any bears about in Yosemite. Love you, my dear. xo

    • Hi precious friend. I’ve missed you. The history of the CCC is truly amazing. I just had to share with everyone. One of these days, maybe you can come here and we’ll go down there and spend the night. Yosemite, WOW! Tent cabins, another WOW! Be sure to write me and let me know how you and your DH survive. Oh yes, there’s a ton of history inside Palo Duro Canyon. You are so right about the Comanche’s living in the canyon. They only had one trail down. As I recall, Col. Ranald Mackenzie, towards the last quarter of the 1800’s, with his men ran all of the horses out of the canyon; thus leaving the Comanches with no way out. Then they killed all of the horses. Needless to say, that wasn’t something I learned in school here either. I have a great picture of Col. Charles Goodnight’s dug out, several really. That was before he moved out of the canyon onto the caprock. One thing of interest, Goodnight took heads of cattle up to the Texas Oklahoma border and left them for the American Indians to have. One of those little, unless you live around here, facts one doesn’t know. Hey, watch out for those bears! LOL If you were in PDC, you’d be watching for Rattlesnakes and Coyotes. Have a great trip and contract me when you get home. I want to know all about your trip. Much love my friend, Phyliss

  12. Thanks for this fascinating post which I enjoyed. When I can travel the place which gives me relaxation and comfort is the beach.

    • Hi Pearl. Good to hear from you and happy you enjoyed the blog. I have kids out in Central California and I totally understand the relaxation and comfort of a beach. I love to sit in my chair, and dig my feet as deep as I can into the sand. Generally, at least one of the grands are being buried alive in the sand, using Solo cups for women’s anatomy. LOL The others are playing frisbie in the ocean. You can’t beat that for relaxation. Take me back to the beach soon! Unfortunately, our beautiful beaches in Galveston and around are in ruins. I pray for the residents of the coastal area. Again, Pearl, thanks for dropping by and bringing back memories. If I didn’t have to do edits on my new book, I’d certainly be on the phone getting a reservation to California! Big hugs, Phyliss

  13. What an interesting blog today. So informative and special learning about the CCC. A setting which I would love to visit and stay for a good while to rest up would be a lake which I used to visit when I was a child. I bet it hasn’t changed at all and I pine for it.

    • Hi Anne, so good to hear from you. Thanks for the nice comment about my blog. I’m always thrilled when I can bring information to our readers that is new … although it’s history. We regularly went to Kentucky and Tennessee when I was young. We’d get a cabin and fish. All four of us girls and our parents. I’m like you, if I could turn time back I’d sure like to go back but I’m afraid without two of my sisters and my parents, it wouldn’t be the same. I’m betting, along with you, that your special place hasn’t changed. Hope you can go some day soon. Much love and thanks, Phyliss

  14. I had read about CCC in the past. Thanks for giving me new insight. If I could go right now, either drive, or fly to a calming locale it would be a cabin by a lake where I would read and enjoy this placid view.

  15. Hi Ellie, good to hear from you. I bet you were like me, I’d heard about it but never put it into a historical setting beyond The New Deal. Oh, I’m totally with you about going to a cabin overlooking a lake and reading. Nothing but eating chocolate and reading. But then I’d have to go to the gym three times a day for two hours each day to try to workoff the extra pounds I’d put on. Thanks for stopping by and so thrilled I gave you some new insight into the CCC. Take care of yourself and I hope you get to that cabin soon! Big Texas hugs, Phyliss

  16. Phyliss- I’m so glad you hooked up with Stephanie. She and I went to Stephenville Highschool together, I sent her last year Linda’s newest book To Love A Texas Ranger and she fell in love with reading. She’s now on book 77 and she says Linda & I gave her back her life. I’ve been telling her about your 2 books and Linda & I both have sent her some of y’alls anthology books, I know I sent the Valentine and The Cowboy one and Linda sent for sure The Christmas anthology and maybe another one. So she’s now a fan of your books. Love you sweet lady. Happy Lanir Day weekend.

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