Fullersburg’s Abandoned CCC Trail

by Carl Strang

 

Yesterday I introduced the Civilian Conservation Corps chapter in the history of Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve. Today I want to describe an abandoned CCC trail that awaits exploration by the adventurous.

 

fullersburg-1937-map-ccc-trail

 

The area is on the north side of Salt Creek in the western part of the preserve. Except for a narrow strip of land along the stream bank, and the low triangular area downstream from the Rainbow Bridge (the bridge at the western extremity of the preserve), the north side of Salt Creek still was in private hands in the days of the CCC. They apparently dealt with the challenges posed by this low area of flood plain by piling fill, installing concrete culverts, and cutting into the side of the hill (reinforcing above and below with walls of dolomite slabs) to build a two-branched trail.

 

fbw-structure-8c-ccc-trail

 

That trail now is so overgrown that navigating it provides something of a challenge, but is easier in winter with vegetation down. The trail does not exactly follow the route indicated on the 1937 map. Walking east from Rainbow Bridge, and looking to the right shortly before today’s trail begins to climb the steep hill (the Tinley Moraine), you can see the old elevated trail route punctuated by a concrete culvert.

 

fbw-culvert-1-b

 

That elevated fill is well populated with honeysuckle now, but if you follow it you will find it curves left and soon reaches the edge of Salt Creek. The trail there goes along the edge of the creek in both directions, completely outlining the creek edge of that low piece of ground. Following it east (left) you will cross another concrete culvert,

 

fbw-culvert-2-b

 

and eventually reach where the abandoned trail climbs up to rejoin today’s trail. As you do, keeping an eye out for poison ivy and stumbling over the trunks of fallen trees, you will note the stacked dolomite wall that reinforced the stream bank to your right,

 

fbw-structure-8h-trail-edge-b

 

and the similar retaining wall built into the hillside to your left.

 

fbw-structure-8e-retaining-wall

 

If you accept this challenge, you will be training your eye to detect old human changes to the landscape. That experience will improve your ability to detect such influences in other places you may choose to explore.

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2 Comments

  1. February 20, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    […] structures were created by workers in the Fullersburg CCC camp. I have shared some of the ruins of other works that no longer are in use, and want to close the CCC chapter with a few […]

  2. Alec Gillman said,

    March 27, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    I followed with interest your observations on CCC-built alterations and structures to the landscape. I have found similar kinds of CCC-built sites here in Massachusetts and other states. The CCC had certain construction standards established by the National Park Service or US Forest Service, and this is evident in your photos. It is certainly a wonder that the efforts of the CCC in developing conservation and recreation areas some 70 years ago remain for us to see (and experience) today. Although some things have certainly changed (ie. folks today don’t picnic the way they did then, so these picnic areas have become derelict) our appreciation and connection to the natural world made possible by these kinds of access improvments continues to be a significant factor today.


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