Credit for the establishment of Turtle River State Park goes to Russell Reid, superintendent of the State Historical Society of North Dakota from 1930 to 1965. Serving also as secretary of the State Parks Committee and state procurement officer for the Civilian Conservation Corps, Reid helped shape North Dakota's fledgling state park system.
Established in 1934, Turtle River State Park was one of a number of new parks built in North Dakota under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" programs. Intended to provide economic relief to the nation's unemployed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, work relief programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were initiated.
In 1935, a CCC transient work camp, SP-5, was built in Larimore. It initially housed 185 young men, along with their commanding officers. They were assigned to build a new park nearby, originally called Grand Forks State Park.
CCC construction projects in the park included bridges, roads, parking areas, foot paths and a number of stone and log buildings, many of which are still in use today. One of their notable achievements was the construction of a fieldstone dam, swimming hole and bathhouse. The bathhouse was later converted into the CCC Memorial Picnic Shelter, and the swimming hole was closed due to public safety concerns.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the men constructed the Woodland Lodge, which was to be used as a combined dining hall, concessions building and caretaker's home. The lodge served as the park's centerpiece until 2000, when it was severely damaged during spring flooding. The building was painstakingly dismantled and reconstructed in 2002 on higher ground. At the old site, you can still see the outline of the foundation and the original fireplace.