View over the elk prairie, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park - Orick CA
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established a camp in October 1933 at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, north of Orick, California.
CCC company 1903 operated out of what was known as Prairie Creek Camp while working on improvements to all the state parks along the coast of Northern California. The state had just created a state park system in 1928, which took over management of a handful of older beach parks and newly-acquired redwood parks purchased by the Save the Redwoods League in the 1920s. There were few, if any, public facilities in any of the parks when the CCC came in.
The CCC ‘boys’ (young men) built roads, trails, camping and picnic grounds, water supplies and other facilities, as well as clearing, cleaning up and landscaping what was then a set of raw parks with almost no development of public, recreational facilities.
At Prairie Creek, the first order of business was to remove ranch buildings – though the main ranch house remains among service buildings across the road from the Visitor’s Center). The enrollees restored the elk ‘prairie’ (meadow) to a more natural state and a split rail fence to protect the elk from passing traffic. They also built the short park entrance road and a gate.
The wood for buildings and fencing came from trees cut for the road north through the forest (today’s Newton Drury Parkway) and left by the roadside by state road crews in the 1920s, which the CCCers clean up.
The CCC camp lay at the north end of the prairie and had wooden barracks. Prairie Creek camp was decommissioned in 1937 and few traces remain. One of these is the park visitor center, which originally served as the “warden’s residence”.
NB: The elk in question here are not the indigenous Tule Elk of Central California, but Roosevelt Elk that are present across the Pacific Northwest.
Engbeck, Joseph Jr. 2002. By the People, For the People: The Work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in California State Parks, 1933-1941. Sacramento: California State Parks.
Project originally submitted by Richard Walker on June 16, 2021.
Additional contributions by Joan Greer.
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