Hell Canyon Log Cabin and Garage, SD 2022
Hell Canyon Log Cabin and Garage, SD 2022

Hell Canyon Log Cabin and Garage, SD 2022

Hell Canyon Log Cabin and Garage, SD 2022

Don’t let the name fool you – Hell Canyon in South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest is a splendidly pleasant place! This campus, constructed almost a century ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), remains a critical resource in the forest’s conservation and management efforts today.

PROJECT PARTNER:  Black Hills National Forest

SESSION DATES: July 17-22 and July 31 – August 5


CREW LEADER: Beckett Hunecke!

Project Site Description & History

The USFS Hell Canyon Work Center log cabin and accompanying garage, which are located on lands historically inhabited by Cheyenne, Crow, and Sioux Nations, were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1938 and 1940. The Civilian Conservation Corps was a Depression-era poverty relief program of the US Government that put young men to work on public benefit projects, especially on public lands. Corps members would receive three square meals per day, and $30 per month – $25 of which was given directly to their families. Learn more about the CCC from Theodore Roosevelt National Park here. Today, the building is still serving the public as a home base for fire crews.

A 2018 architectural report describes the cabins’ style as rustic, like most CCC-constructed buildings. However, these two “exceed the standard in terms of construction detail and craftsmanship.” The report continues to describe the buildings’ construction:

“The log cabin residence is built on a poured-in-place concrete foundation with native stone veneer above grade. The log walls consist of horizontally stacked 9-inch diameter logs saddle notched with oakum seal and 11-inch diameter vertical corner logs. According to the 1938 construction documents, the bases of the sill logs were sealed with creosote and oakum before being set onto a grout bed. The workmanship of the logs differs between the residence and the garage in that hand tool marks are clearly visible on the residence while only a heavy grain pattern characterizes the garage. This may have been achieved through a mechanical de-barking process although more research will be needed before a definitive method can be established.”

Over time, maintenance efforts addressed log deterioration and rot by applying various kinds of fillers, as well as paint. You may have heard that paint is the first line of defense for buildings – and that is especially true in in this case. Several layers of paint, applied over the past several decades, protected the logs from developing new rot, but it did not prevent the existing rot from spreading. HistoriCorps volunteers and staff will address this through removing paint, repairing deteriorated logs, and applying a new wood preservative treatment.

Location and Logistics

SESSION DATES: July 17-22 and July 31 – August 5. Please plan to arrive at our campsite no earlier than 5pm and no later than 7pm on the first day of your session.

SITE INFORMATION:    Tent camping only  Site is RV/trailer accessible

Dogs are NOT permitted on this project. We will camp at Comanche Park Campground and commute to the job site daily. Tent campers, truck campers, and those with small RVs/trailers can access this campsite. However, there are no hookups and the ground may not be perfectly level.


WEATHER:  Anticipate highs in the mid 70s and lows in the 50s. Weather conditions may be rainy, cloudy, or sunny. Volunteers are responsible for checking weather conditions before their session begins, and packing appropriately.

ABOUT VOLUNTEERING: HistoriCorps projects are free for volunteers! HistoriCorps will provide all meals, tools, training, equipment, and a campsite. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to the campsite, sleeping equipment, work gloves, clothes and boots, and other personal gear.

Scope of Work


HistoriCorps is committed to educating and training volunteers in preservation skills, with an overarching mission of inspiring a preservation ethic in all those involved. Learning and working alongside expert HistoriCorps field staff, volunteers and youth conservation corps members (across different work sessions) will learn the traditional skills necessary to preserve and restore elements of the Hell Canyon Work Center’s log cabin and garage.

  • Strip paint from log cabin and log garage (35%)
  • Log repairs to log ends, wall logs, windowsills, trims using epoxies, Dutchman repairs, face splices, crown replacements (35%)
  • Apply wood preservative to existing logs and repairs (30%)

Please note: Tasks vary by day and by week, depending on a variety of factors including: weather, project priorities, previous groups’ work, and more. Though it is likely you will get to learn and practice most or all of the above tasks, it is not guaranteed. The higher percentage of the scope a particular task is, the more likely you will get to practice it.

Sign Up!

We’re thrilled this project has inspired you to volunteer! Choose your session and register below:

You will know your registration was successful when you receive a confirmation email. Contact volunteer@historicorps.org for assistance.

HistoriCorps does not charge for its volunteering projects. HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue engaging volunteers to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.

Volunteer Logistics, Policies, and Advice

We’re so glad you’re interested in joining this project! If you’re new to our community, review the Volunteer FAQ first! Please note the following logistics and policies:

  • HistoriCorps is committed to keeping our volunteers, staff, and project communities safe.  Read our Covid protocols here (updated August 2022).
  • Volunteering with HistoriCorps is free! We will provide all meals, tools, training, equipment, and a campsite or shared indoor lodging. Dinner is not provided on the first night.
  • Volunteers are responsible for bringing their own gear, work gloves, sturdy work clothes and boots, and appropriate sleeping equipment. Check the average temperatures before you start packing – the nights and mornings may be colder than you anticipate! Then, read this advice about how to stay warm when tent camping in colder places.
  • Campsite accessibility varies by project. Some projects can accommodate tents only; others can accommodate small RVs. Please review the project site description above for more information, and if you’re still not sure, email volunteer@historicorps.org for help.
  • If this project does not offer showers, you might want to consider bringing a solar shower or research other methods to clean up after the work day.
  • Volunteer crew sizes generally range from 4-8 volunteers, with two HistoriCorps staff that lead and train volunteers in the work.
  • Safety is one of HistoriCorps’ top priorities, and volunteers can contribute to a safe working environment by ensuring their physical fitness is adequate for the work. See above for this project’s scope of work and difficulty level. Please, call us if you are not quite sure if a project is a good fit for your skills or fitness level. We may be able to suggest a project more suitable and enjoyable for you.
  • Hard hats, eye protection, ear protection, gloves are standard personal protection equipment (PPE) required on all projects. Hard hats must be worn at all times on the project site, unless working in a designated safe space. Field staff will train volunteers on correct use of PPE.
  • Dogs are generally allowed to accompany their humans in project campsites (actually, we love having dogs join us around the campfire!). Dogs are not permitted on the job site for everyone's safety. HOWEVER: HistoriCorps also follows the rules and regulations of our project partner. If the project partner does not permit dogs onsite then HistoriCorps is no exception. Please ask HistoriCorps or the project partner directly if you have any questions about whether Fido is welcome.