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Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Civilian Conservation Corps at Rattlesnake Springs, New Mexico--1938-1942

Overview: The Civilian Conservation Corps at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
March 18 2003
Reviewed: Saturday April 07 2007
Bob Hoff (CAVE Historian, 1992 - 2005)
Carlsbad Cave National Monument established on October 25 1923 became on May 14 1930 Carlsbad Caverns National Park. In 1934, the U.S. government purchased 79 acres at Rattlesnake Springs about six miles away as a source for the park’s water supply. While Rattlesnake Springs did not become part of the park until December 1963 Carlsbad Caverns National Park administered this “detached” site from 1934 on.

The Civilian Conservation Corps created Camp NP-1-N at Rattlesnake Springs in July 1938. CCC enrollees from Camp NP-1-N known as CCC “boys” worked on Carlsbad Cavern National Park projects from August 1 1938 to May 22 1942.

At Rattlesnake Springs, the CCC enrollees built a ranger residence still in use today. They also constructed a service road and a water diversion ditch and constructed masonry work to line the Rattlesnake Springs pond. While National Park Service Landscape Architect Harvey Cornell provided the plans for the CCC camp layout in 1938 it is not clear to what extent CCC enrollees constructed the CCC camp.

At the park headquarters near the entrance of the Carlsbad Cavern several structures constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps remain:
  • Two occupied employee triplexes

  • Two maintenance buildings also used today in our maintenance facility operation

  • A parking lot close to the 1932 elevator building (where our visitor center built in 1957 stands today)

Other projects that the Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees accomplished here include:
  • Performing minor cavern trail work and maintenance not trail construction For instance placing sand on cavern trails in preparation for building parapet walls

  • Removing rock from the talus slope in the underground lunchroom to line the cavern trail edges

  • Litter pickup etc.

  • Constructing a diversion ditch fencing project and service road at Rattlesnake Springs

  • Obliterating and adding to the pump house at Rattlesnake Springs

  • Cleaning the water supply at Rattlesnake Springs

  • Grading and resurfacing the floor(pouring concrete floor slabs) in the underground lunchroom in the cavern

  • Assisting on carpentry projects and electrical projects in the cavern and on the surface

  • Helping the survey crew

  • Assisting in plumbing maintenance

  • Clearing ditches along Walnut Canyon Highway. Installing guard rails

  • Re-building the Walnut Canyon road after the Sept 1941 flood damage

  • Building a Walnut canyon flood dike

  • Surveying the “Truck Trail” to the “Fire Lookout” location

  • Constructing a dynamite storehouse and equipment storage shed

  • Building a grease and wash rack

  • Paving with flagstone near the ticket office

  • Working on stone trails/walkways in the residential area

  • Quarrying rock and making adobe bricks

  • Placing utility cables in rock trenches

  • Excavating for the cavern sewerage sump

  • Building a masonry wall to protect the Cavern Supply storeroom and restroom in the cavern from the public view

  • Building a fire weather station

  • Obliterating the old guano road from White City to the cavern

Composite Historical Picture of Civilian Conservation Corps at Rattlesnake Springs, New Mexico

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Note on the picture above: Several years ago I wrote an article that included a picture of a couple CCC workers laboring on a floor in the underground lunchroom. Someone who read it thought that he recognized his father in the picture who was one of the foremen of the 831st Company at CCC Camp NP-1-N (NP being the National Park Service designation) and asked to see a larger picture which I supplied him with. Although he couldn't identify his Dad in that picture, he supplied Carlsbad Caverns National Park with a copy of the above picture which shows his Dad's name and position as a camp foreman (I am not supplying the name in order to protect his family's privacy).

I think that in thirteen years that I was the park's historian, this picture ranked as one of the most wonderful donations that we received in my opinion.Notice Slaughter Canyon Cave in the background, one of the canyons of the lowlands of the Guadalupe Mountains lowlands. Also notice the men themselves, the retreat picture, the reading room picture, the roster, the flag. The white spot at the base of the flag, unfortunately, is a tear in the picture.

During my tenure as the historian, I only interviewed a few ex-CCC "boys." To a person, they all were proud of the projects that they had participated in. And why not, they achieve mauch in many places, parks, forests, and other public areas. In other CCC camps in Carlsbad, New Mexico, they participated in working on the very important irrigation canals

CCC Camp Roster

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

For more reading about the Civilian Conservation Corps in the National Park Service, please see:
The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, 1933 - 1942: An Administrative History by John C. Paige(National Park Service, 1985)--Links
Table of Contents
Chapter One:A Brief History of the Civilian Conservation Corps
Chapter Two: The National Park Service Role
Chapter Three: The National Park Service Camps
Chapter Four: Contributions
Chapter Five: Overall Accomplishments, 1933 - 1942


For more information about the CCCs in New Mexico, please see
Coming of Age in the Great Depression: The Civilian Conservation Corps in New Mexico, 1933 - 1942 by Richard Melzer

Retreat at CCC Camp, Rattlesnake Springs
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

April 18, 2007 information addition:

Rattlesnake Springs Historic District Nomination for National Register of Historic Properties

© Bob Hoff, 2007


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