Rules and regulations are a necessity to safely manage any large gathering of people and Dolly Copp is no exception. Camp rules as they were in 1936 have been preserved in the Forest Service archive. Some pride is seen in their introduction;

Dolly Copp Forest Camp, in the White Mountain National Forest, is maintained by the U. S. Forest Service for your use and enjoyment in outdoor recreation.

From its inception in 1915, it has been used each season by steadily increasing numbers until its average mid-summer population is well over a thousand people and three hundred tents. Over weekends and holiday periods their numbers are much greater.

Dolly Copp Forest Camp has become a national institution.

According to these 1936 rules “Campers will be assigned to unoccupied space of their own choice as far as possible.”

A question from today's perspective is how did campers place their tents in proximity without friction when space was short, as they did not have the definitive site boundaries of today as a guide?

Long time camper George Brackett's answer is that the top authority at that time, Ranger Benedict, “ran the place with an iron hand”, to the extent that the finality of his rulings prevented most problems and complaints.

Also in the 1936 rules; “No advance reservations for particular locations will be made.” The policy toward reservations has of course changed since then, as such a system was put in place for parts of the Campground after 1987. Today advance reservations can be made directly over the Internet.

Many of today's common administrative tools were still evolving back in the thirties. For example, the Regional Forester wrote in 1936 that he was “of the opinion that a sticker for the car windshield, if it is necessary that we have one, should read that the owner of this car is ‘Camper, White Mountain National Forest’ and the ‘Dolly Copp Forest Camp’ be subordinated.”


Campground receipts 1937 and circa 1939.

Another of today's common features was proposed in this same 1936 memo; “We should plan to prepare a colorful and pictorial map of the Forest Camp, which may be printed and distributed to those campers or visitors who are interested. A copy of it on a larger scale should be framed in a glass top table and located in the Administration Building for interest to visitors.”

We know that such a map was ready by 1940 as a copy from that year has been preserved (645 KB). It has been revised many times over the decades. An up to date version of the Campground map was offered to arriving campers at the Gate House until about 2005.

In the thirties night time quiet hours were already part of the routine. A duration of 10:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. was used, slightly more restrictive than today's 10:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M.

Archival Forest Service correspondence indicates that parking and access to campsites were growing problems in the thirties. It was only after many years that the current high standard was achieved, whereby most campsites have their own private on-site or very near-site designated parking.

The policy in the thirties for parts of the Campground allowed for informal shoulder pull over parking areas, each large enough to serve a few nearby sites. Private and clearly identified parking for each individual site was not the norm as it is now.

A circa 1936 memo reads “In some areas of the camp grounds parking spaces have been furnished on which the cars owned by the campers must be parked. This is to prevent any possible damage to improvement features built by the Forest Service.”

Yet George Brackett remembers that these group parking areas were not formalized as the rectangular parking spaces we are accustomed to today. Rather, they were informal, roadside shoulder areas. He disagrees with the practice on the 1940 Campground map of drawing edges to such areas, as he remembers them as being neither so obvious nor so distinct.

We find in the same 1936 memo that “Some of the areas at Dolly Copp Forest Camp have been laid out for restricted camping. On these areas tent sites have been located and raised slightly to make the tent location the best in the area.”

But sites were not yet numbered in the mid-thirties (GB). Neither was the grass on the camping field areas regularly cut. You might arrive to find grease on the tall grass, deposited by the suspension of the automobile of the previous occupant (GB).

The swimming pool, built in 1933 northeast of the elbow on Hayes Field Drive (known as Swimming Pool Drive back then), created an unanticipated parking problem. The 1936 rules state that “Parking of automobiles along the Pinkham B Road or along the camp drives by users of the swimming pool is prohibited.”

The low roadside log barriers shown in old photos near the Pool and along Swimming Pool Drive were likely placed there to help enforce this rule.

View southwest beyond swimming pool.
Log barriers prevented adjacent parking.

Then according to the 1940 rules “Non-campers may use the swimming pool provided that they park their cars on the picnicking area parking spaces.” That rule must have been a disincentive, as it was quite a walk back over the Peabody River Bridge.

We are fortunate that Dolly Copp has never been commercialized. This was the result of USFS foresight early on. A 1928 news report on Dolly Copp states “Whatever may be the improvements, the Forest Service plans to avoid all changes that may result in the cheap commercialism that has already marred so many otherwise beautiful campsites.”

A 1932 news article provides this insight: “Campers who come to Dolly Copp desire to be unmolested by the peddler and he is never allowed on the grounds. Not so much as a piece of candy can be sold legally.”

Then in 1935 we have this eloquent letter from a Forest Service official to a person proposing to open a retail outlet in the Campground:

I regret very much that it is necessary for me to deny your request for permission to erect and maintain a small store on Dolly Copp Forest Camp. This office receives a few requests of a like nature each year and the proposition has been given considerable thought.

But it is believed that the interests of the greater number of users of the campground will best be served if no commercial enterprises of any kind are permitted on the area.

While there are undoubtedly those who find the trip to Gorham inconvenient, there are also perhaps a greater number of campers who find in the absence of commercialization of Dolly Copp a charm which is lacking on many such camping areas where concessions are allowed.

The establishment of stores or other commercial developments on the areas is not deemed necessary nor desirable for full enjoyment of the type of outdoor recreation which the camp grounds are designed to provide and which the majority of users apparently seek.

Jay Milliken recalls that in the fifties a truck selling ice, wood and bread had a route through the Campground. Then for decades the one exception was the sale of campfire wood.

The next commercial expansion came in 1998 with the sale of ice and then wood at the Gate House.

EARLY TOURIST LITERATURE. A mid to late thirties Gorham, NH vacation brochure featured Dolly Copp as a nearby recreational asset:

Due to its accessibility, its proximity to the Presidential Range, and the natural beauty of the area, the popularity and use of the campground is constantly increasing.....

An administration building is available for use by the campers for dancing and other gatherings. Attendants are on duty at all hours. Swimming may be enjoyed in the pool on the campground or in the Peabody River nearby.

Reference to fishing tales on 1938
USFS vacation map, Imp in background.

Fishing the Peabody River on Guy Shorey
post card mailed in 1945. See full detail.
Source: Scott McClory Dolly Copp Collection.

Tables and benches are provided, and pure water is piped to many outlets on the campground. Sanitary chemical toilets and cans for depositing refuse are conveniently located and cleaned daily by the attendants.

No charge is made for any of the facilities provided, and no time limit is set for camping.

All are welcome, and the only requirements are that campers register upon entering and leaving and that the few simple rules governing use of the campground are observed.

In 1938 the New Hampshire State Planning and Development Commission released a booklet extolling the State’s major public recreation areas. Dolly Copp Campground was one of them:

Located on the old Copp farm beside the Peabody River 6 miles south of Gorham on Route 16, this forest camp and picnic area has the highest public demand of any forest campground in the East.

Forty thousand people registered here during the summer of 1937. An excellent system of gravel roads makes the camping spots readily accessible.

Culhane Brook passes through the campground between the swimming pool area and the Big Meadow, providing the water supply and swimming facilities for the area.

Peabody River flows between the picnic area and the campground and affords good swimming in the Ranger Pool but is unsafe for drinking purposes.

Dolly Copp Spring, on the picnic side of the river, not only supplies good, cold drinking water but also carries a long, historical background.

Dolly Copp Spring.

Excellent views are enjoyed from the campground and picnic areas. The Presidential Range forms a background, while the Carter Range with the Imp as a focal point is in the foreground.

The entire aspect is pleasing with mountains, wooded slopes, bare rocks and cliffs as a nucleus for some of the finest scenery in the East.

The present developed area is capable of accommodating 2,000 campers and 300 picnickers at one time. The popularity of this forest camp is the result of its close proximity to the many hiking trails of the White Mountains and its location in the very heart of a most scenic area.

The many improvements, such as toilets, running water, garbage disposal and swimming pool, are added facilities which make the area a favored place to camp.

The Dolly Copp forest camp has become a central point for establishing a base for hiking, and is a gathering place for sightseers. Campers entering this area should see the custodian and register before selecting their camping sites.

The U. S. Forest Service had its own tourist literature in 1938, including a large fold out map of the entire White Mountain National Forest. Of the eight photos included as representative of the Forest, two of these showed scenes at “Dolly Copp Forest Camp.”

One passage reads “To meet the demands of recreationists, the Forest Service has made extensive improvements.... Forest camps and bathing pools have been improved.” We can deduce from this that in the thirties Dolly Copp was not the only federal campground in the White Mountain National Forest to be upgraded.

The section entitled Camps and Camping is interesting for what it was felt had to be said for the benefit of newcomers; “Forest camps, equipped with tables, fireplaces, sanitary conveniences and facilities for the disposal of refuse, are located throughout the White Mountain National Forest. No beds, blankets, tents or other personal equipment are provided” (italics added).

Eleven camps are then listed as “a few of the more popular camps,” with a short description for each. For Dolly Copp; “The most popular camp in the forest includes individual camp sites as well as group campgrounds. A swimming pool, picnic shelter, and administration building are available.”

A 1938 guide to New Hampshire by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Program Administration reached this conclusion; “Dolly Copp is the most popular of all New Hampshire's many camps.”