The invention of the automobile required the building of better roads and highways as the number of cars in America increased from 8,000 in 1900 to 40 million by 1930. Touring motorists packed food, camping gear and their families in the car and began enjoying the freedom of camping anywhere along the roads.

It didn’t take long for communities to begin offering free auto camps.

By 1915, Ashland’s Lithia Park and Riverside Park in Grants Pass had established camps. By 1925 both camps included cabins for motorists who left camping gear at home and began seeking more sanitary and comfortable places to stop for the night.

Commercial camps appeared in the early '20s, and within seven years Grants Pass had 24 of them, more than any other Northwest city.

The cabins were basic, costing about $200 to build. At most camps, the cabins lined up along highways. Investors in the cabins recovered their money within a season or two.

Congress met the increased tourism by funding more national campgrounds.

Within a few years, motels appeared on the scene.

Source: Mark, Stephen R. Domain of the Cavemen: A Historic Resource Study of Oregon Caves National Monument: National Park Service, 2006. Print.

— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.