Shortly after the Circle Z was established in 1926 America found itself in the grip of the Great Depression. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in early 1933 he faced a challenge of an economy in a shambles with rampant unemployment. His administration established several New Deal programs designed to get people back to work and energize the economy. One of these programs was the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC), which reached right into Patagonia at Flux Canyon.
The CCC had a dual goal: to conserve natural resources and salvage America’s out-of-work young men. The National Park Service had been established about 20 years earlier, increasing awareness of the value of the landscape. Yet public land outside the park system sorely needed irrigation, reforestation and overall land management. The CCC and its new workforce provided the perfect solution. In total the program established over 2,600 camps that employed over half a million men to address these public land needs.
Part of the Coronado National Forest group, the Flux Canyon camp operated from 1933 to 1935 and was located on the eastern side of state route 82 at the junction of Flux Canyon Road. Circle Z guests pass through the remains of the camp during the full-day cookout ride.
Camp related projects focused on water infrastructure: stream development, erosion control and well digging. Camp residents also took on firefighting duties. According to the U.S. Forest Service, in mid 1934 “all lookouts on the Coronado were manned by CCC enrollees.”
Perhaps the most significant contribution by Flux Canyon Camp to Patagonia concerned livestock and grazing interests. CCC crews built fences, cattle guards and corrals as part of a U.S. Forest Service allotment program to regulate fencing and grazing among ranchers. These efforts improved overgrazed areas and ultimately improved the quality of livestock.
Flux Canyon Camp closed in 1935, with its residents moving on to Apache National Forest. Today all that remains are a few concrete pads that formed the foundations of lodging tents and the mess hall, along with a former administration building that is now a private home. But the effects of the CCC linger, in the fences, in the curves of Sonoita Creek, and perhaps in the cattle that are descended from those that grazed here during the Great Depression.