Our History

The Ocqueoc Outdoor Center was built in 1933 as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. While it sits on Lake Ocqueoc in Northeast Michigan, the camp was originally called CCC Camp Black Lake. The name referred to the forest in which the camp was located, not to the lake on which it sat.

CCC Camp Black Lake was one of three camps established in Presque Isle County, Michigan. There were 42 camps in the northern lower peninsula and upper peninsula.

What is the Civilian Conservation Corps?

The Great Depression was in full swing in 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt developed the Civilian Conservation Corps as a work relief program. He wanted to put young single men, aged 18-25, to work. The program created manual labor jobs focused on restoring and developing natural resources. These men would elect to work in remote areas, away from home, and earn $30 a month.

A few months into the program, Roosevelt amended the CCC program to include veterans. And it was, in fact, veterans who resided at CCC Camp Black Lake.

The CCC Camp Black Lake Pump House

What did the CCC do at Black Lake?

Their first job was to build the structures that made up CCC Camp Black Lake. There were three barracks, a mess hall, a hospital, administrative quarters, a garage, and a building for oil storage. These buildings were modular and easy for the workers to assemble.

The first goal of the CCC was reforestation. But nurseries could not keep up with early demand for new trees. This forced the CCC to shift its sights to capital improvements in state parks and forests. Black Lake crews headed to Hoeft State Park and Onaway State Park to build new structures. They worked on roads and utilities. And much of what they accomplished here is still enjoyed by locals and tourists today.

They did eventually get back to planting trees. Stands of their red pines stand tall on the Ocqueoc Outdoor Center property, as well as in different locations across the county. Look for the groups of trees planted in nice, even rows!

Want to read more about the projects these men worked on? 
Check out our New Deal Tour of Presque Isle County
All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Ocqueoc Outdoor Center.

When did the CCC end?

The country became involved in World War II. With that, the Civilian Conservation Corps became less important as a work relief initiative. The focus of labor shifted to the war effort and the economy improved. Congress voted to dissolve the CCC in 1942.

How did CCC Camp Black Lake become the Ocqueoc Outdoor Center?

Camp Black Lake was renamed the Ocqueoc Outdoor Center after the CCC dissolved. The DNR repurposed the camp as a camping facility for youth and outdoor education groups. In 2003, when the DNR could not find an organization that would operate the facility for them. Rather than take on operations themselves, they planned to demolish the buildings and use the property as a campsite.

Concerned locals advocated for the camp, which was a wonderful outdoor recreation resource. Because of their efforts, ownership of the property was transferred to Presque Isle County.

From that point on, involvement of area locals and civic organizations was instrumental in keeping the facility in good shape. By 2017, the Friends of the Ocqueoc Outdoor Center formed as a formal Michigan non-profit and 501(c)(3). And they’ve been making the property safe and beautiful for visitors ever since.   Click here to read the full story.

What Do the Friends Do?

They’ve managed several grant projects for camp improvements. Their improvements include repair of the mess hall, replacement of stoves, and more. They’ve added an additional washer and dryer, and a half bath. They funded structural and roof repairs for the garage.

They also organize annual clean-up days. They initiate public education and outreach activities in an effort to promote and market the site. Their tour guide, New Deal Tour of Presque Isle County, helps visitors explore the area to see CCC Camp Black Lake’s impact. And recently, they authored a successful National Register nomination for the camp

The Friends of the Ocqueoc Outdoor Center want to ensure that this amazing site and its history are accessible for you, and for future generations.