FOXHOLM – There’s not much physical evidence remaining of the existence of Camp Maurek, but a small monument and plaque help tell the story.
On the west side of the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, just below Lake Darling Dam, is a turnout and informational kiosk that helps visitors learn about the flora, fauna, and history of the Souris River refuge. It’s also the location of the cairn telling of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Specifically, Company 796 of Foxholm.
Company 796 constructed Camp Maurek, a barracks and a few other support structures, about a mile south of the current refuge headquarters. Based at Camp Maurek, the workers of the CCC constructed Upper Souris NWR. It was the era of the “Dirty 30s” and the Souris River was reduced to a trickle.
The CCC, a national work program from 1933 to 1942, paid workers a dollar a day. Company 796 assisted in building Lake Darling Dam, putting up fences, building roads, planting trees and food patches, and creating the holding ponds between Lake Darling Dam and Baker’s Bridge. Water that pooled behind Lake Darling Dam proved invaluable to wildlife, particularly waterfowl whose populations were severely diminished in the dustbowl era.
Further downstream on the Souris was the J. Clark Salyer NWR, a series of shallow ponds designed specifically as a waterfowl nesting area at a time when the region’s life-giving potholes were quickly going dry. It was thought Lake Darling could hold enough water to supply J. Clark Salyer for two years of drought, thereby ensuring that the Souris River wouldn’t go dry.
Some of the Camp Maurek workers rescued young waterfowl from area potholes that were dry or nearly dry, returning them to the new impoundment of Lake Darling and the marshes below where waterfowl, and other birds, continue to flourish to this day.
Stones painted white, spelling out Camp Maurek, can be seen from an overlook located on the Scenic Trail below Lake Darling Dam when the grass hasn’t grown high enough to obscure them.