Sunday, February 16, 2014

Guernsey State Park and FDR's New Deal - The Men of the CCC

Guernsey State Park is well known as a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts. But did you know that it is one of America’s best historical sites to take a close look at Civilian Conservation Corps History?

Dozens of projects undertaken by CCC workers in the 1930s are still in use in the park today. For those of you who dozed off in high school history class the CCC was part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Civilian Conservation Corps was the government’s attempt to put young men back to work. Guernsey State Park was built by theses CCC workers, the park having two camps, one on each side of the lake.

Although the park abounds in wonderful reminders of the CCC and their work building the park, here are my five favorites.

1.     The Museum – The Museum is on the east side of the lake and was built by CCC camp Br-9, which was located down the deep valley south of the museum.

2.     Lakeshore Drive – Lakeshore Drive crosses the dam and follows the east shore. The drive leaves the park at Long Canyon and leads on into the town of Hartville. The drive from Guernsey to Hartville via Lakeshore Drive may be the most beautiful drive in all of eastern Wyoming.

3.     Sitting Bull Picnic Shelter- Located on Lakeshore Drive

4.     Skyview Drive – This is the main road on the west side, unlike Lakeshore Drive, it is not paved but the surface is well maintained, hard packed, gravel.

5.     The Castle- The Guernsey State Park Castle can be reached by taking Skyview Drive to its termination on the North Bluff. While there check out the, Million Dollar Biffy, the most ornate and overbuilt comfort station in all of Wyoming’s state park system. Skyview Drive, the Castle and the, Million Dollar Biffy were all projects of Camp BR-10 although the Castle was finished up by the men of Camp BR-9.

For true history buffs, the Powderhouse at Camp BR-10 and the bridge on the Brimmer Point walking trail are musts. (Unfortunately the bridge on the Brimmer Point trail was burned in the terrible fire in the summer of 2012 but the terrific stone work is still in place)

The Powderhouse may be one of the least visited historical places in the park. To find the Powderhouse take Skyview Drive the road left from the park entrance pay station, (the road to sandy beach) after going up the mountain (May West Hill) and coming down you will find a turnoff to the left, south, at the bottom of the hill. This is across the road from the beginning of Tunnel Mountain Trail. The old Powderhouse is only about one-hundred yards northwest from this turn off. The turn off is steep but there is room to turn around at the bottom.

The Powderhouse has a small bright metal (unfortunately) interpretive sign. If you are adventurous many ruins from old camp BR-10 are in the area immediately west of the Powderhouse strung out for nearly a quarter of a mile.

On a final note - If you have taken a long drive to reach Guernsey State Park check out the hiking trails. Wonderful views with many great photo opportunities and great exercise also.

                         "The Worker" - Civilian Conservation Corp statue at the Museum