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Airstrip Junkies
by Colin M. Graham

Memaloose – Imnaha, Oregon
Public / Oregon Government

Elevation 6,500

Memaloose Airstrip25U Memaloose is another good strip for those looking for a little adventure. It is nestled 6,500 feet above the raging Snake River and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Some pilots elect to fly in from the south while others prefer the north. Memaloose is currently owner and maintained by the forestry service. Be careful with downdrafts over the edge on the south side. It is a 4,000-foot sheer drop.

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
P.O. Box 907
Baker City, Oregon 97814

Looking at Memaloose from the north

Mile Hi – Payette National Forest, Idaho

Elevation 5,800

Mile Hi airstripMile Hi. The name says it all. This strip is deep in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in the middle of Idaho's backcountry. It rests about 1,500 feet over Big Creek as it meanders into the Middle Fork of the Salmon 15 miles downstream. It is definitely one-way in and one-way out. At only 500 feet usable length it not for the light hearted. It has a 30-percent uphill slope to make your heart pump even faster.

The strip is suited for taildragger aircraft such as a Piper Cub, Super Cub, Maule, Cessna 180 or Cessna 185. Elevation is about 5,800 feet. Pictures can be seen in Galen Hanselman's book "FLY IDAHO!" Many thanks to Galen for showing me this one on our trip into the backcountry in May 2002. Do not fly into the airstrip unless you have been shown how by a local or experienced pilot.



Negrito Airstrip – Reserve, New Mexico
Forest Service

Elevation 8,100

Negrito airstrip is at a high elevation and long. It lies about 20 miles southeast of the town of Reserve, New Mexico. The elevation is 8,100 feet and the main runway is 7,500 feet in length. This is very long by backcountry standards. It also has a shorter crosswind runway that is 4,500 feet in length. The airstrip is well mainted and primarily used as a stop-off for the many firefighting aircraft in the area during fire season.

There may be livestock on the runway.

During a trip to New Mexico I stopped at the Reserve location of the USFS and inquired about the airstrip. You can drive to it in about an hour and a half, down a dusty dirt road. This airstrip is listed as private, but people go in and out all the time. The USFS will probably grant you permission.

Takeoff runway 17

Landing runway 35

Photos by Christopher Martindell - When I took the pictures I was out there doing a study for the Air Force and was based there for four months every summer for three years. The USAF wanted to lower their VR route through there and in order to do so they needed to do an Environment Impact Study. I am an ex-SONARMAN on Los Angeles-class submarines. I was hired to go there to make the acoustical measurements of the over flights and then submit them to the biologists to do their study. It was fun. I don't think the Air Force or the Air National Guard is going to stop flying through the area anytime soon, so watch out for F-16s, T-38s and German Tornados screaming through the Gila National forest at 500 feet or lower and around 500 knots. They also have F-117s flying the route at night and I've seen a couple of C-130s fly the route. It's fun when they have to gain altitude so they can bank without their wings hitting the ground, then drop back down after their turn. Their route is several miles south of the airstrip, but keep an eye out. They are trained to try to avoid it due to fire-fighting traffic.

As far as the airstrip goes, it's a pretty easy in and out. It's just the density altitude you have to watch, but there is plenty of room to get up to speed. I rode in and out of there a couple of times in a Cessna 206 and Cessna 185 when some missionaries were using the airstrip to practice what it will be like flying supplies to unimproved strips in Africa. Runway 17 has a slight uphill slope. Unless there is a strong crosswind the best approach is from the south to runway 35. The ideal departure is to the south on runway 17. There is a little dip in the runway that might kick the plane in the air prematurely.

I live in San Diego and fly from MYF. I'm always looking for fun places to fly that are close enough for a one-day trip out and back and this one matches the criteria. I really enjoy your site and hope you keep updating it. Thanks.

Orchard Ranch Airstrip – S of Big Trails, Wyoming
Private - Owner Robert Orchard


This beautiful Wyoming airstrip is located about 10-nautical miles south of the Otter Creek Ranch. It is open and well maintained by its owner, Robert Orchard. Mr. Orchard is a delightful gentleman and we had quite a conversation about flying in his area.

The airstrip has a single 3,000 foot by 50 foot turf runway that runs through a large grass-covered plain. There are several obstacles on the west side of the airport including a power line that runs the length of the airstrip and a T-hangar that sits about halfway down the runway. He also said there is a road that intersects the airstrip on the southwest side at a 20- to 30-degree angle. If the landing rollout needs to be extended the airplane could turn and use the road as a runway providing the speed is not excessive.

Mr. Orchard has a Maule STOL plane based at the field that he uses daily for herding cattle around the enormous ranch.

The approach to runway 04 and runway 22 are wide open and there is a good windsock located 300 feet south of the hangar.

If you would like to land there Mr. Orchard has no problem, but he asks that you call first before landing due to gopher hole or other adverse surface conditions.

Robert Orchard 307-366-2450

Otter Creek Ranch Airstrip – Ten Sleep, Wyoming
Private - Not currently in operational use


03WY Located about 10 miles southeast of the tiny Wyoming town of Ten Sleep, the Otter Creek Ranch airstrip lies in the middle of thistle weeds. The airstrip is still considered open but is no longer used by its owners, nor is it maintained in a usable condition.

The strip sits on a 70,000-acre cattle ranch according to manager Dennis Johnson. We visited in January 2004 and he said the strip has not been used in three or four years. He has no problem with us listing it. A very nice cowboy.

The layout is interesting. The strip has three runways varying in length from 1,100 feet to 2,500 feet. This type of runway configuration is generally reserved for airstrips where the wind can (and often does) blow from any direction. I traveled through Ten Sleep in May 2002 and can imagine the wind blowing from different directions. The strip is south of town and east of the Big Horn Mountains. The terrain is mostly high grasses.

Mr. Johnson made a comment that a "pilot may be able to get down on the strip during the summer months, depending on whether or not it's been mowed." The strip is difficult to locate in its current condition because it looks like nothing more than a regular field.

Go have a look, but it is private. If you want to touch down call Mr. Johnson at 307-366-2447.

Oxbow – Homestead, Oregon
Private / Idaho Power Company

Elevation 1,800

OR12 No specific information can be found. All phone numbers failed, but the runway is 17/35, 2,900 feet by 50 feet asphalt. The airport is located in a deep, narrow canyon just north of the Oxbow Dam. The airstrip is about 15 miles south of Memaloose.

Pasayten Airstrip – Washington State
Okanagon National Forest
~ Closed Indefinitely ~

Elevation approximately 4,000

Pasayten Airstrip was built i the early 1930s by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) that was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide jobs for thousands of workers during the Great Dlepression.

The airstrip was used primarily for fire suppression operations for many years. The strip itself is very good for backcountry standards. It is nearly 4,000 feet in length and at least a couple of hundred feet wide. The runway lies along a bench above the Pasayten River in the Okanagon National Forest. The strip was closed when the government passed a forest preservation act in 1968. It has remained closed since that time.

The USFS maintains a cabin at the airstrip and they will fine you if you fly into this airstrip.

The surrounding terrain was ravaged by a forest fire in the 1920s and has new growth pine forest.

Porter Ranch – Kennedy Meadows, California
Private / M.E. Fox

Elevation 6,800

68CN The airstrip is currently suitable for emergency use only. The owner is unavailable for contact as was the owner of the near by Sacatar Meadows airstrip.

Do not land here unless you have secured permission.

Possum Creek – Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Private / David Force, Jr.

Elevation 10,010

Possum Creek could well be the Nation's highest airstrip. The runway is 1,360 feet long, but It has a 30-percent uphill slope. The runway starts at an elevation of 9,840 feet. At each end of the strip is a 700-foot cliff. To land here you must first get permission from Mr. Force.

The area, including the airstrip, may have been sold on 03-17-2003.

Photo by Kay Cooper

Photos by Sparky Imeson, 04-02-2003



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