Civilian Conservation Corps at Cumberland Falls

Historic marker #2002 in Whitley County notes the accomplishments of the Civilian Conservation Corps at Cumberland Falls during the Great Depression.

In 1929, the stock market crashed and sent the world into the Great Depression. During these years, many Kentuckians were out of work and fell on hard times. President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted a variety of civic programs to try to revive the nation, known as the New Deal. Within this package of programs, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) functioned as a means to provided relief for unemployed, unmarried men in exchange for labor on public projects. The CCC began in 1933 and ended in 1942.

Through the CCC, Kentucky’s forests received attention and care. Kentucky men employed through the program reforested land, worked to prevent soil erosion, built lodges and trails. Around eighty thousand men worked to conserve Kentucky’s woodlands. One of these areas was the Cumberland Falls State Park located in Whitley and McCreary County. Prior to the CCC’s involvement, the Cumberland Falls became a state park through a charitable offer by Thomas C. duPont. He offered to provide the funds for the state of Kentucky to buy the land. In March 1930, the Kentucky General Assembly approved duPont’s offer and officially made the land a state park in 1931. Starting in 1933, three CCC camps were erected in Corbin near the Cumberland Falls State Park area- companies 509, 563, and 1578. The men of these companies built everything from trails to parking areas and picnic tables. The National Park Service supervised the men’s work and the Army supervised the men at their housing units. The young men earned three meals a day, about 30 dollars a month and basic education for their services. CCC work at the Cumberland Falls State Park continued until 1937.

In the 1990s, structures built by the CCC still existed at the Cumberland Falls State Park, half a century after they were constructed. These included 2 picnic shelters, 2 camp shelters, 15 cabins, and 20 miles of trails with a foot bridge, stone steps, and water bars.