The Horse Heaven CCC Camp

Life, Work, Masculinity and Education in the Northern Idaho Forest

Horse Heaven was one of the most remote CCC camps in North Idaho. It was constructed to be a ‘forest camp’ meaning that the majority of projects conducted by the workmen were related to forestry.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was one of the most popular of the 1930s New Deal programs, designed to employ young me, promote economic recovery by sending funds back to their families, and completing public works projects. The Horse Heaven camp, like many of the Pacific Northwest’s CCC camps, was dedicated to forestry and conservation projects. Its location near Enaville, Idaho in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest, allowed for easy access to areas in need of forestry projects. Men at this camp had loaded into cars and driven deep into the wilderness with 40,000 pounds of supplies to build the camp from the ground up. Due to the rugged trail they had to traverse, the thirty mile trip took them six hours by car. After their trek deep into the dense woodland, the caravan camped in a clear valley meadow that had been set aside for the CCC. They had to build their camp, number F-156, from nothing but the supplies they brought with them. Once they were finished one of the camp’s leaders, Major Clarke, called it one of the most beautiful in the area. Form their central location, the men of the camp were able to work on projects like road building and limiting the spread of blister rust, a deadly fungus, in the white pine population. More than just the effect on the local forest and the education of the men at the camps, the CCC was known for improving their outlook as well.

The Great Depression challenged concepts of masculinity of the time, but through camp activities the workmen of the CCC were able to rebuild their confidence. Men who had no work could not fulfill their prescribed roles as breadwinners, and those same men with little no money for food found themselves weakening physically. The CCC worked to effectively combat these doubts. It gave young men food and a steady job that allowed them to send money home to their families. The work they did was largely outdoors and very physical. When this was coupled with a steady nutritious diet, it allowed formerly weak and sickly men to regain their strength, further improving their self-image. Along with that, the residents of the CCC camps had the opportunity to educate themselves when not at work. Each camp in the CCC had a library and offered classes in diverse topics like public speaking and radio operation. Some classes would even be taught from visiting professors from nearby colleges. This gave the workmen at Horse Heaven camp the opportunity to exercise their minds as well as their bodies.

Horse Heaven camp was one of many CCC camps in North Idaho and across the United States. These camps served as the center of conservation efforts in their time, but their impact was far larger than just environmental. These camps served to preserve the self-respect of men who had been struggling with economic circumstance.

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