By Ken Wayne, ArrowRiver.com
Like millions of other visitors who visit the park each year, my family and I absolutely love the Great Smoky Mountains! According to the National Park Service over ten million visitors visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1987, 1999, 2000, and 2014 making it the most visited national park in America.
It's no wonder why so many people flock to the Smoky Mountains each year with it's miles of mountain tops with forest, diverse plants, and animal life and the Appalachian Trail running right through it all. Not to mention the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is surrounded by tourist destinations like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Townsend Tennessee as well as Maggie Valley, and Cherokee North Carolina just to name a few.
It straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee as it is world renowned for the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves a rich cultural tapestry of Southern Appalachian history. The mountains have had a long human history spanning thousands of years-from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early European settlement in the 1800s to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees in the 20th century.
This article will be one of many I will write about my adventures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding areas, In this article I want to focus on a bit of the history of the park and will discuss the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the men who helped build the infrastructure needed to found the park in the 1930's & 1940's.
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
The CCC was created in 1933 as a federal work project during the Great Depression, using young men in conservation worked in national and state lands. The program provided gainful employment and schooling to the enrollees from all around the nation whilst at the same time supplying much-needed work on public lands across the country.
At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as many as 4,000 enrollees were delegated to 22 CCC camps at different times from 1933-1942, building roads, paths, fire towers, and more.
Enrollees of the CCC planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America; assembled paths, lodges, and associated facilities in over 800 parks nationally; and updated most country parks, upgraded forest fire fighting techniques, and assembled a community of service buildings and general roadways in distant places.
The most normal CCC enrollee has been a U.S. citizen, an unmarried, unemployed man, 18-25 years old. Ordinarily, his household was on local relief. Every enrollee volunteered and, upon passing a physical examination or a span of conditioning, was needed to serve a minimum six-month period, together with the choice to function as many as four phases, or up to 2 years, if employment away from the Corps wasn't possible. Enrollees worked 40 hours each week over five times, occasionally including Saturdays if poor weather ordered.
They also received $30 a month (equal to $585 at 2019) using a mandatory allotment of $22-25 (roughly equivalent to $460 in 2019) delivered to a household dependent, in addition to housing, meals, clothes, and healthcare. The legacy of the CCC is tremendous, and also the work of those young men stays clearly evident today. Even in the modern cash $1045 per month could barely be sufficient to live on.
But bear in mind the CCC also supplied them with free meals and board and room if you'd consider a tent board and room. The magnificent all-natural beauty of the American National Parks continues today because of the Civilian Conservation Corps. It is no doubt the Great Smoky Mountains National Park wouldn't be what it is today without the support of these men of the CCC.