Norton Grist Mill at Big Ridge State Park

Ever wonder where some of those carved stone steps and 80-year-old trees in our state and national parks came from? Those sturdy structures that show signs that they’ve stood the test of time? Many of the older structures and tall trees you see along hikes through parks such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Big Ridge State Park, Frozen Head State Park and Norris Dam State Park were built and planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

This group of about 76,000 men working in Tennessee was hired by the U.S. government to build bridges, dams, roads and to build up our nation’s parks. Much of their work still remains, and some holds great historical significance at a few of our favorite outdoor destinations:

  • Just a 40-minute drive north of downtown at Big Ridge State Park, you’ll find lasting stonework and structures that reflect the CCC’s craftsmanship along with the Norton Gristmill, which was built in 1825 and restored by the CCC.
  • Head to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see an impressive amount of work done by the CCC including construction of the Rockefeller Monument at Newfound Gap, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, or the Headquarters Building.
  • At Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area, you’ll find roads constructed by the CCC along with structures such as a dynamite shack. You can also hike up a scenic 7-mile trail to an observation deck with 360-degree views that stands where the CCC once had a fire tower.

Not only can you get out and see these and many other east Tennessee CCC sites with your own eyes, but also in the coming week, there are several events to help you experience and learn about the CCC’s work in Tennessee.

Bill Jamerson, an expert on the CCC, will give a presentation at the East Tennessee History Center in downtown Knoxville featuring short segments of his PBS film and excerpts from a book he wrote on the subject. He will also feature his songwriting skills and his own CCC uniform in a musical and storytelling presentation on the “CCC Boys of the Great Smokies,” elaborating on their work in the mountains.

Get out and play this weekend to preview the legacy of the CCC in our parks, then join outdoor enthusiasts to learn more!

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Written by Carol Evans
Get Out and Play info@legacyparks.org