From atop an observation tower to an overlook by a lake and even the steps beneath your feet, the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps touched many significant structures in Iowa’s State Parks. Celebrate the CCC’s 90th anniversary, March 31, by visiting these stand-out examples of CCC projects in Iowa.
In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt founded the CCC to address the urgent need to employ young men during the Great Depression. Nationwide, more than 2.5 million men enrolled in the Corps. Iowa had more than 46,000 people enrolled when the program discontinued at the start of U.S. involvement in World War II.
Iowa CCC men worked on conservation and construction projects in more than 80 state parks, and the legacy of these men can still be seen today. Although it’s hard to choose from the many state parks with CCC structures, here are seven of the best from around the state:
North Iowa: Pilot Knob
Pilot Knob has a few structures built by CCC members in the 1930s, including its most notable: a 30-feet-tall observation tower. The tower, built with glacial stones from the local area, was originally planned to stand 40 feet tall, but did not reach its full height when winter came early and the camp moved to its next location. Pilot Knob also has a stone shelter and entrance portals built by the CCC.
Southeast Iowa: Lake Wapello
Many of the facilities at Lake Wapello were built by members of a CCC camp at the park from 1933-38. That includes the largest complex in Iowa’s State Parks. The Beach House Complex, which has a lodge, an open shelter, changing rooms, a boat and concession rental area and a breezeway with a deck overlooking the lake is a centerpiece of the park.
Southeast Iowa: Lake Keomah
Lake Keomah State Park features two CCC facilities, its lodge and beach building, which were built with limestone from the lake bed.
Southeast Iowa: Lacey-Keosauqua
Lacey Keosauqua has dozens of structures built by the CCC. A few include the current interpretive center, formerly a gatehouse for visitors to check into the park, the main lodge, Beachhouse Lodge and trail bridges.
Northeast Iowa: Pine Lake
The CCC built two cabins at Pine Lake State Park near the Iowa River around 1936. The cabins were renovated in 1993 and stripped to original sandstone. Most wood material was replaced with the exception of the original wooden fireplace mantles. Each cabin also has a stone fireplace. Further renovations in 2020 made the cabins more accessible and compliant to ADA standards. New furnaces and air conditioners were also installed.
Northwest Iowa: Black Hawk
Men at a CCC camp in Lake View, home to Black Hawk State Park, built several structures in the park in the 1930s. Two of the most popular today are open shelters used for family reunions, picnics and wedding ceremonies. Another is the Black Hawk cabin, which can sleep more than 10 people.
Northwest Iowa: Dolliver
The CCC built a few structures during the 1930s at Dolliver State Park. They include the South Lodge, used for weddings, family reunions and other gatherings, as well as two cabins, a mess hall, another lodge, bridges and trail steps.
Find even more state parks with CCC structures: iowadnr.gov