Park History

Prince William Forest Park was built in 1935-36 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a program to reduce unemployment and teach job skills. Over 2,000 CCC enrollees came to work on this land along the Chopawamsic and Quantico creeks, creating Chopawamsic Recreational Demonstration Area—renamed Prince William Forest Park in 1948. Prince William Forest was a model for the entire nation. It was to be a new type of camp, where low-income, inner-city children and families could get away and experience the great outdoors. Planners hoped the camp experience would build "a crop of sturdy citizens" inspired by "a close communication with nature."

During World War II the sound of gunfire on shooting ranges replaced children's laughter as the family camps closed for three years, and the park became a top-secret paramilitary installation.

Future spies stayed in the cabin camps, where the Office of Strategic Services, (OSS, forerunner to the CIA) taught men how to handle weapons and explosives, gather intelligence, forge documents, send and receive secret messages, and practice spying in nearby towns.

American Indians, colonists, American Revolutionary and Civil War troops, tobacco merchants, loggers, miners—many traversed or lived here over the centuries. Located close to this event's Day 1 venue, Oak Ridge, is an important archealogical site known as the Prince William County Poorhouse (depicted below; more information here). In the early 1900s farms dotted the area. Joplin, settled by people named Abel, Carter, Liming, and Williams (local names familiar today); and Batestown, founded by free and former enslaved African Americans. There are still traces of these settlements in this now-forested landscape: stone piles marking property corners, old fences, or gravestones in family cemeteries. These are precious reminders of our past; please protect them for future visitors.

Prince William County Poorhouse

Prince William County Poorhouse (1797 - 1927)