Guernsey State Park is another place in Wyoming where you can really enjoy a day on the water from fishing to water skiing! Driving to Guernsey you'll get to see a lot of the "ugly" part of Wyoming. It's an arid landscape stretching for miles with only dry rolling plains unless you're headed North... Then you'll see Laramie Peak in the distance towering above the barren hills. Finally, you enter the Park and there are beautiful green trees everywhere, not to mention stunning rocky outcroppings and cliff faces that challenge the imagination as you drive around the edge of the lake.
What strikes me most about this area, however, is the ingenuity of hard times displayed in the Park amenities we enjoy today. From the dam roaring with energy and the promise of new life on the plains through irrigation to the inviting hand-built picnic areas.
What do I mean by the Ingenuity of Hard Times?
The Guernsey State Park amenities we enjoy today were built in the 1930s during the Great Depression by one of the New Deal programs, the CCC. This was a time in the United States when more than a quarter of the population could not find work. There was such extreme poverty during this period that my Great Grandmother told me, "We didn't know we were poor, because everybody was poor." She was only a little girl at the time, but she still remembered using newspaper for toilet paper and flour sacks for dresses. Things that we take for granted she considered a treat! So you can imagine that very few people had the time or money to be taking vacations. Yet the New Deal spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in public works programs.
Back then to revitalize the economy, they didn't send you a "free" $1200 unemployment bonus check, the government required the working-age males (women weren't exactly in the workforce yet and certainly not to the extent they are now) to work in these public works programs. What makes these men's contributions to our Parks through the CCC so amazing to me, is that they were building "playgrounds" of tomorrow. The very existence and investment in their work showed a deep-rooted belief that the hard times wouldn't last forever!
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), was established in April 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The CCC employed millions of young American men in their late teens to early twenties. In their nine years of existence, they planted three billion trees and built trails and shelters in over eight hundred parks including Guernsey State Park. One of the reasons this program was so successful is that beyond providing a stable income for these young men, it also taught them skills they could use in their future careers.
It will shock you to learn what they made for all this hard work. Although their room and board were paid for by the program, these men made only $1 per day, and since the program mainly accepted men who had families to support $25 per month was sent home to care for them. This left the men with only $5 to themselves every month!
Guernsey State Park
Guernsey State Park was built around the Guernsey reservoir which had been completed in 1927.
The men lived in two separate camps on the park in military-modeled conditions and were initially organized by the military. In their free time, the men competed in sports competitions including golf and swimming.
A testament to their work is the Guernsey Museum built with hand-hewn timbers, hand-forged iron, and stone walls. My personal favorite is the Castle picnic area framing Laramie Peak. You'll get a real giggle out of what the men called the outhouse they built for the Castle, but I won't spoil the surprise for you!
Making next to nothing these men built a beautiful lasting legacy that will be enjoyed for many more generations to come.
Have you visited Guernsey State Park? Was the CCC active in a Park near you? How do you see the ingenuity of hard times at work today?
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