Shiloh Museum exhibit reveals roots of CCC at Devil’s Den

Shiloh Museum exhibit reveals roots of CCC at Devil’s Den

“I can get a little choked up sometimes talking about the CCC,” says Tim Scott, assistant superintendent of Devil’s Den State Park near Winslow. “About 60 percent of the park, as it is today, was built” by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Scott spoke recently at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale as part of the exhibit titled “Ozark Tree Army: The CCC at Devil’s Den State Park.” Established in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs intended to help ease the crises of the Great Depression. Scott gets a little emotional, he says, because over the 40 years he’s been at Devil’s Den, he’s gotten to meet a lot of men who worked with the CCC at the park.

“Not only did the program build a park, but they were helping these young men to become good stewards and citizens,” Scott says. “It was incredible to learn the history directly from them. They were proud of their work, and how the program basically saved their families.”

The corps employed between 2.5 and 3 million people between 1933 and its closure in 1942, says Sandra Cox Birchfield, the Shiloh Museum’s communications manager.

“Most CCC projects in Arkansas were in national forests or on state-owned property,” according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. “The fledgling state parks system benefited greatly; the work program created roads, trails, lodges, cabins, campgrounds, amphitheaters, bathhouses, picnic pavilions, and beaches at six locations in four different regions of the state: Petit Jean, Mount Nebo, Crowley’s Ridge, Devil’s Den, Lake Catherine and Buffalo Point.”

Angie Albright, director of the Shiloh Museum, says Devil’s Den is one of the best-preserved nationally of the CCC park projects.

“A number of researchers are taking a special interest in documenting the structures at Devil’s Den right now, and we received a donation of numerous historic CCC photos,” she explains. “It just seemed like a sign to dive into our collections and celebrate our photos and artifacts while the park was celebrating its 90th birthday.” She adds that the exhibit takes its title from one of the nicknames Americans gave the CCC, Roosevelt’s Tree Army.

“Photographs in the exhibit document the hundreds of corps members stationed at Devil’s Den as they created the park’s many structures, roadways, landscapes and trails, many of which are still visible today,” she says.

“The CCC built the park as an area to recreate, just as we use it today – camping or staying in the cabins, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, or just relaxing,” says Scott. “We get about 500,000 visitors a year,” he adds, who can learn about the CCC via interpretive panels and a brochure.

Scott and Albright agree that Devil’s Den is also considered the birthplace of mountain biking in Arkansas, with the Ozark Mountain Bike Festival, the first of its kind in the Natural State, dating back to 1989. Visitors to the Shiloh Museum exhibit can see not only photos but artifacts including a dinner bell used at the CCC camp at Devil’s Den, a pennant for CCC Company 3777, U.S. Forest Service CCC cap from 1941 and a 1980s vintage hardtail Keith Bontrager mountain bike.

“We were offered a mountain bike from the 1980s that is a very specific type from that era, and it made sense to include it to show how the work of the 1930s has manifested in the years since,” Albright says. “And of course, mountain biking is an important tourism industry in our region, and that’s due partly to Devil’s Den’s development of the events and trails for bikers.”

Scott says “FDR really had a plan” when he created the CCC, which was one of his favorite New Deal programs.

“It an amazing story,” he adds. “[The men of the CCC] survive the Depression and then go fight in World War II.”



‘Ozark Tree Army: The CCC at Devil’s Den State Park’

WHEN — Through Aug. 31; museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday

WHERE — Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, 118 W. Johnson Ave. in Springdale

COST — Free


FYI — Find out more about Devil’s Den State Park at

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