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Idaho Airstrips - Soldier Bar

WARNING! The information presented about the Idaho Airstrips is not intended to replace flight instruction from a competent instructor for flying to or landing at any of the airstrips presented. DO NOT attempt to land at Soldier Bar until you have received instruction on the proper approach. The airstrip will not be visible until established on a 1/4- to 1/2-mile final. Although much information is presented, it is not sufficient to cover all the hazards associated with these backcountry airstrips.

Soldier Bar

Located on the south side of Big Creek Canyon, 500 feet above Big Creek, this airstrip is about 3-miles west of the junction of Big Creek and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Name: Soldier Bar USFS
Identifier: 85U
Elevation: 4,190 feet
Lat: N45-05.99 Long: W114-48.06
Surface: Dirt
Runway: 7/25
Length & width: 1,650 feet by 15 feet
Remarks: Go-around is not recommended; the runway, beginning at the approach end of runway 7, slopes down to the north at approximately 4 degrees; sharp dogleg to the north (to the right when on runway 25) on west end of runway 25. NEVER approach to land on runway 7.

Flying up Big Creek toward the east, the Soldier Bar airstrip is visible on a bench on the south side of the creek. Note the right side (west end of runway 25) slopes down toward Big Creek (4-degree angle). It is easy to distinguish the dogleg on the runway and the two bumps when flying along side the runway.

There is a bump about 450 feet from the approach end of runway 25, and another bump at 905 feet from the approach end of runway 25, just before it doglegs to the right. It's important to have exact airspeed control and use the spot method for landing to place the airplane exactly where you want it. If you land too fast there is a good chance the airplane will become airborne again when it encounters the bump at 450 feet from the end of the strip. Once in the air it is likely the airplane will not have sufficient airspeed to make it maneuverable. This makes the airplane susceptible to an accident.

Note the bump about 450 feet from the approach end of runway 25. There is another bump around 900 feet from the approach end of runway 25.


Runway 25 (approach end on the left side) has a steep rise toward the west. Land on runway 25; depart on runway 7. If conditions do not allow for this procedure, delay the flight until conditions improve.

This photo (right) more closely resembles the view when approaching the airstrip at the proper altitude. It is advantageous to know how to use the spot method for landing when approach to land at most of the backcountry strips.



It is desired to have a steeper than normal approach path to backcountry airstrips; however, this photo does not represent the proper approach angle to the airstrip, the approach angle is too steep.

While on approach to runway 25, if the airplane is not on the ground and slowing down by the time the first bump is encountered (450 feet from end), there is a chance that the airplane will become airborne. Because of the dogleg along the length of the runway, it may be impossible to gain control of the aircraft on the desired landing surface.

Most of the west end of runway 25 slopes down toward Big Creek. The extreme west end of runway 25 provides temporary parking out of the way of other aircraft. Long-term parking and camping is at the other end (east end) near the grave marker of Pvt. Harry Eagan – the only known casualty of the Sheepeater War.

Read about the Sheepeater War in Galen Hanselman's Fly Idaho!

Note the water barriers (belted-cross drains) perpendicular to the airstrip. These erosion strips are made of reinforced rubber and do not damage the aircraft's tires. They do prevent rain water from "cutting" valleys when it flows along the length of the strip (moving water is how the Grand Canyon was formed).

It is necessary to restrict the application of power on the first length of the runway (runway 7) because of the turn to the left. If too much power is applied during the first part of the takeoff roll, it will be impossible to make the left turn. You really want to turn left to avoid the trees that are straight ahead. Wait until completing the turn before adding full power.

A high-speed taxi is used during the first portion of the takeoff from runway 7.

Remember mention of a bump 905 feet from the approach end of runway 25? It's still there and you will encounter it once you make the left turn. It's probably best to pull the control wheel all the way back on tricycle-gear airplanes to reduce the possibility of nose wheel damage.

The runway ends abruptly with a steep drop into Big Creek several hundred feet below. This has been used to advantage by pilots unable to gain sufficient speed to produce the required lift for takeoff.

Soldier Bar Airstrip
Flying west along Big Creek approaching Soldier Bar. The airstrip is hidden.
Soldier Bar Airstrip
The airstrip (runway 25) comes into view.
Soldier Bar Airstrip
Note the 500-foot drop off down to Big Creek.
Continuing on final approach. Maintain the exact desired airspeed. Continuing the approach. On final for runway 25.
Short final for runway 25. The approach is too shallow. Touchdown on runway 25 (slightly to the right of centerline). Approaching the first bump 450 feet from the approach end of runway 25.
The bump is visible. It doesn't appear as "such a much" but with excess airspeed, the airplane can become airborne again. Parking (Cessna 182) on the north side of threshold of runway 7.
Parking (Cessna 172) to the southeast of the approach end of runway 25. Bring your own tie-downs. Harry Eagan monument. The only soldier killed in the Sheepeater wars. Harry Eagan - Private Co. "C" - 2D Infantry - Killed in action here - During an attack by Sheepeater Indians - on rear guard and - pack trains of Cos "C" - 2D Inf. and "C" and "D" - 1st Calvalry - August 20, 1874
Taxiing from the southeast part of the airstrip for takeoff on runway 7 creates dust. Taxiing into position for takeoff on runway 7. Do not add full power for takeoff at the end of runway 7. You will be unable to make the left turn to align with the longest length of runway.
Continuing to roll forward, but still don't add full power. Note the erosion strips. Early morning and late afternoon shadows make these appear as if someone dug ditches across the runway. Full power is added just before making the left turn for runway alignment.
It might appear that you want to make a left turn after liftoff. Looking back at the dust cloud created during the takeoff. Elevation 4,190, airstrip 1,660 feet by 20 feet, temperature 80ºF, Cessna 172 (180-hp).  
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