All for One

The CCC in Central Idaho

By Ray Brooks

In 1970, I worked for the Sawtooth National Forest’s Hailey Ranger District as part of a summer crew of three. Our crew boss was the “district man,” Jim Cook, a kindly rural philosopher. He had grown up in Hailey and was a lifetime bachelor in his fifties who lived with his father. The two of them spent every spare dollar and every free day on their all-consuming hobby, mining for silver near Hailey. Jim Cook’s big youthful adventure had been with the U.S. Army in North Africa in WWII.  

One morning we went to visit what had been the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp Ketchum on Warm Springs Creek, about four miles from Ketchum. Jim had lined out the day’s work schedule for my co-worker Bob Allred and me, which centered around picking up a section of road culvert from a Forest Service road crew stockpile at the former Camp Ketchum. On the drive there, Jim spoke at length about the camp and his positive impressions of CCC boys he had befriended in the Army. “Them CCC boys didn’t cause much trouble when they was here,” he said, “and they did a lot of good construction, including the Hailey and Ketchum Ranger Stations and new roads up Warm Springs Creek and over Trail Creek Summit.”  

After unlocking the gate into Camp Ketchum, we drove to a small warehouse with a stack of culverts and piles of gravel outside. Nothing else appeared to be at Camp Ketchum and when I asked Jim about the absence of 1930s buildings, he replied that many of them had been hauled one hundred and ten miles to Mountain Home Army Air Forces Base during WWII.

In July 2020, I was on my way home from three days of exploring remote historic mines on upper Little Smoky Creek north of Fairfield. After a scenic night on top of the high Dollarhide Summit, I drove down Warm Springs Creek to satisfy my stomach’s plans for lunch in Ketchum at my favorite Mexican eatery. I was running a little early, so I parked at a turnout by a bridge on Warm Springs Creek and went for a hike down an unsigned road into history. After about a half-mile, I reached what had been Camp Ketchum from 1933 to 1941, but the terrain didn’t match memories of my 1970 visit with Jim and Bob. The Forest Service warehouse that then had been at Camp Ketchum no longer existed, and I couldn’t even find any old concrete foundations.

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Ray Brooks

About Ray Brooks

Ray Brooks is a native Idahoan. Beyond retirement age, he remains an active rock-climber, river runner, and hiker, who keenly appreciates Idaho history. His climbing career started in central Idaho in 1969. To support his outdoor habits, he worked on Forest Service helicopter fire crews, was a Middle Fork Salmon boatman, ran an outdoor shop in Moscow, and became a sales representative for outdoor gear.