Trout Creek Guard Station

Trout Creek Guard Station was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was part of the New Deal of President Franklin Roosevelt instituted during the Great Depression. Single young men from financially stricken families were recruited to work on natural resource projects like building dams, roads, fences, campgrounds, and buildings. The men lived in camps that were run by the military. Many of the roads and buildings on the forest were built during this period. The wood porch was replaced in 1998, but the station essentially looks the same way it has for nearly 70 years.

On the porch, just left of the door, is a wood box. This once held the phone that linked all the guard stations on the forest. Dave Keddy, who was stationed at Trout Creek for several years said “the phones were also on the outside to make them available to the public in case they had an emergency and had to get help.” The phone line across the forest was first constructed between 1910 and 1911. For many years they were the only telephones in the area and were relied on by locals. Mr. and Mrs. Walkup, ranger at Elkhorn Ranger Station, “tell of being awaken many times so that someone could call a doctor or to deliver an important message to a neighbor, sometimes eight or ten miles away.”

One of the ranger’s main responsibilities was maintaining the phone line. Bill Hurst, ranger in Manila, remembers long winter days spent trying to find the break in the phone line to Vernal. When he reached the summit just north of Trout Creek ( the end of his territory) he would cut down a small lodgepole, put it between his legs and ride it down the hill to his horse. Keddy reports that “one of the first tasks of the summer season was to make sure the line was operating and to clear off any trees that happened to fall across it and reconnect the wires if they were broken and then hang 'em up on the trees on their insulators to get the system in operation.”

Keddy said the first summer he spent in Trout Creek he did not use the phone, but the second summer he became more comfortable with its use. “When you were alone at any of the stations, the Lookout or the Guard Stations and the phone-line was working, you could communicate with the other workers by listening to the phone or ringing them up and asking them what they were doin' but soon as the phone rang, everybody seemed to pick up their phone to find out what was happening. It was an interesting system of communication and one of the social activities that you had while staying at the Guard Station.” Hurst said the Forest Service line on the north slope of the Uintas also went to several ranches like Swett Ranch. Each place had their own distinct ring, like Morse code. Three long rings meant the call was for the Swetts while two longs and a short ring was for the Summit Springs guard station. This party line was an important link to the outside for many years. In the late 1950’s President Eisenhower called Emma Swett to tell the workers they could start work on Flaming Gorge Dam. I wonder if any one else picked up their phone for that call. One of these old Forest Service telephones can still be seen in the main cabin at Swett Ranch. A similar phone is also in the regional room of the Uintah County library.