This Week in South Dakota History: Lightning Creek Camp

This segment posted above is from SDPB’s daily public affairs program, In the momenthosted by Lori Walsh.

On this day, October 17, 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps camp named “Lightning Creek” opened in the Black Hills near Jewel Cave. As in many CCC camps, the work included building dams and clearing wooded areas.

“Lightning Camp” was located nine miles west of Custer, or about four miles east of Jewel Cave National Monument.

The camp was organized by the US Veterans Bureau at Fort Lincoln near Bismarck, ND, and was staffed by North Dakota veterans of World War I. After arriving at Camp Lightning Creek, the veterans were put to work clearing the forest of its overgrowth of trees. Although the work was different, the schedule was about the same as at Fort Lincoln. Their work focused on a large area of ​​the Harney National Forest. In addition to clearing the forest, workers were assigned to construct fires, improve springs, and construct cattle guards, drift fences, and dams.

In May 1934, a 30-man parallel camp was established at the Summit Ranger Station now known as Black Elk Peak. Work in this side camp also included thinning, spring development, fire trails, fire fighting, insect control and construction of telephone lines, roads, cattle guards , drift fences, dams and sheep pens.

Camp Lightning was used as a CCC camp from October 1933 to July 1942.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps in March 1933. It was a public works assistance program that operated until the early months of World War II. He employed single men from New Deal relief families. It was originally aimed at young men aged 18-23, but has been extended to 17-28 year olds. The purpose of the CCC was twofold: the conservation of our natural resources and the rescue of our young men. More than 30,000 men contributed to projects in South Dakota and were able to help their families back home.

Today you can visit the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum of South Dakota. It is located on the top floor of the Hill City Visitor Information Center. The museum is entirely funded by donations. Displays, materials, annual open house and website are provided and maintained by local volunteers.

The Civilian Conservation Corps camp named “Lightning Creek” opens in the Black Hills near Jewel Cave on this day in 1933.

Production assistance for This Day in South Dakota History comes from Brad Tennant, Ph.D., professor of history at Presentation College.

Robert M. Larson