Monday, August 18, 2008

Big Creek Airstrip and Camping

Big Creek Airstrip looking northAs part of our Idaho and Yellowstone airplane camping trip, we stayed at Big Creek, ID (U60). I have been talking about it in my past blog about general airplane camping thoughts, and I wrote about it in my past blog entry when I took the McCall Mountain/Canyon Flying Seminar. This was the first time I had both landed and stayed there. It was a very nice location.

There is a lodge as well as camping so we would have a choice for dinner and sleeping. Our plan this time was to camp. We also met up with another family during our stay here and had a great time.

The Approach

Big Creek is a more challenging strip to get into, but not as hard as some. I would recommend looking at the Fly Idaho Book for details. From the south, I flew past Stanley, Sulfur Creek, Landmark, and Johnson Creek airstrips. After passing the ridge before Big Creek, I started desending and quickly saw the airstrip. I circled the airstrip in a typical pattern and at the typical altitude, announcing on 122.9 what I was doing. I did a standard left hand pattern entry and landing to the south which is upstream. The altitude is 5743' and the landing is made uphill; takeoff is downhill. I recommend taking instruction before landing here. I would not have wanted to do this without it.

It is not recommended to land or takeoff the opposite directions. We saw somebody land the wrong way, and he took the entire runway; the airport manager said he had seen it done 3 times and this was the first without an accident. Also, if the wind is blowing the wrong way for takeoff, wait until later. We saw somebody takeoff uphill and into the wind; he made it, but the airport manager strongly warned against it. You may get off the ground and up to treeline and then end up losing the wind and sinking into the trees.

When we were there, the wind was calm in the morning and then picked up around 10:30am from the South. 12:00pm is typical. It did not die down until around 7pm. On our departure day, we ended up waiting until 7pm to get the proper winds. Sunset was around 8:45pm, so we still had time to make it to our next destination.

With proper instruction, this airstrip is not bad and is a lot of fun.

Big Creek Airstrip looking south


Parking is at the South end of the strip on the east side. There are a couple things to be careful of. The tie downs stick up out of the ground, so you might not want to taxi over them, but in front of them. The parking is also slightly downhill. So after engine shutdown, somebody either has to hold the brakes while somebody gets a rock or use the parking brake. Then slowly back the plane down to the tie downs and put a rock under a wheel.

The Campsite

The campsite is right behind the airplane parking. There are fire pits, picnic tables, lots of flat space for tents, drinking water, and a decent pit toilet. Lots of nicely spaced trees for hammocks. There is a fun small creek to play in for the kids. Very pretty location. Since the road access is a long dirt road through Yellow Pine, this location is pretty quiet except for the occasional plane. I think the nearest big town is McCall which Google estimates as 4.5 hour drive. McCall is less than 30 minutes by plane.

Big Creek Campsite
The Lodge

There is a nice lodge here at Big Creek. There they have lodging, a restaurant, horseshoes, and a campfire in the evening.

They have a nice restaurant. The restaurant does not have a standard menu, but cooks a good standard breakfast, lunch, dinner for the people there. We made it to breakfast twice and it was very good and very filling. For dinners, they check with who will be eating and try to make something everybody will enjoy.

The lodge was very nice to us even though we were just camping, but we did eat a couple meals there to be somewhat a part of the lodge. The hospitality is impressive and I would recommend checking it out for at least meals if not staying there.

There was an evening campfire that was a highlight of our trip. The lodge started it up around 7:30pm and we all enjoyed. We brought some marshmellows and somebody had a guitar. It was very nice.

Things Nearby

We only saw a few things while we were there, but I think the area has a lot to offer. Although just hanging out around the airstrip was very nice.

We wondered about going down to see Big Creek itself. It is a bit of a walk, so we asked the lodge if they could help us out with a ride at least in one direction. They found a convenient time and gave us a ride in a truck down to the trail going to the Big Creek and the half moon outhouse. From the trail it was a pretty easy walk down to the river. Maybe 1/2 mile? Then we probably had 1.5 miles back to the campground. It was a nice time.

Big Creek

The family I met up with had mountain bikes and the lodge has mountain bikes for rent for $10/day. This is a fun thing to do since the dirt roads do not have much car activity and there are old mines to look at and it is just a general pretty area.

There is a horse barn for the USFS there as well. Nobody was at it the first day, so we stayed away. But the second day, some people were there and we asked if we could come visit. It was a convenient time for them, so they gave us a nice tour. A great time for a 6 year old.

Horses near Big Creek


It is definitely a place I want to go back to. If my wife comes along, we will likely stay in the lodge. If it is just another father/son trip, we will probably do the camping again. Both are very nice.



Brian said...

I am very sad to say that the Big Creek Lodge burned down. I wrote another blog to describe a little more about what I found out about the fire.

Anonymous said...

We are headed to Big Creek this weekend to camp with our two children. I saw your blog and was happy to see someone camping with kids!

Brian said...

We are heading to Tetons this weekend with my son. If I didn't have the time booked up with friends, I might head over and join you.

Please respond back here on how Big Creek is there after the fire.