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Airstrip Junkies
by Colin M. Graham

Cedar Creek Ranch – Saratoga, Wyoming
Elevation 7,800

Private / Tom Arthur

96WY Nestled just outside the town of Saratoga, Wyo. Cedar Creek Ranch sits on a high sage-covered flat. The elevation is high and the runways are short, making this a dangerous airstrip for anyone that doesn't know the particulars.

Tom Arthur, who resides in Tampa, Florida, has a ranch here and currently flies a new Cessna Caravan in and out of this 2,000-foot strip. According to Tom the strip is not maintained and is used by himself. For anyone else it is open for emergency use only.

There is another runway listed, but it is only 800 feet in length. Don't come here, you probably won't make it back out in one piece.

Crystal Lakes – Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
Elevation 8,400

Private / Crystal Lakes, Inc.

25CO Crystal Lakes likes about 60 miles northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado. The elevation is 8,400 feet and usable runway length extends to 3,800 feet. The airport manager reports that it is fairly flat with the exception of a single hump about halfway down the runway. The immediate surrounding terrain is basically treeless, but there are forests located about 300 feet out on any given side of the airstrip.

As a resort, Beaver Meadows Resor Ranch offer day, night and extended-stay activities for the vacationer.

The strip is being used for a resort community that boasts 1,700 available properties ranging in size from 1.5 acres costing about $40,000 for a 5-acre parcel. The resort lies about one-half mile from the airstrip. There are about 600 homes spread out over the 5,000 acres the resort owns. There is no line of sight between the runway ends. Currently no aircraft are based at the airstrip. It is used by homeowners or their guests.

The manager notes that most departures are to the west with a quick left turn into the North Fork Valley. Turning right up Panhandle Valley will "trap you," he said bluntly. There is also an 80-foot rock outcropping to watch out for on the east end of the airstrip. Try not to catch 'Big Bertha's' hips onit.

Visitors are welcome if you call ahead

Don Weixelman, Crystal Lakes, Inc. – 970-881-2800

Flying M & M Ranch Airstrip
San Juan Mountains, Colordo
Owned by Mrs. Hoge, Sedona, Arizona

Elevation 8,000

Mrs. Hoge sure is a nice lady. We talked briefly about her airstrip located in Colorado. Her husband, Mervin, passed on and they no longer use the airstrip (information current as of 03-11-2005).

Airport elevation is a whopping 8,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. There are two runways, north/south and east/west. Both are 4,700 feet in length. At one time the runways were "mowed like golf courses," but they haven't seen blades in more than three years.

The airstrip was built in 1991 as a "cool summer place" to escape the hot Arizona sun. There is no specific ranch on the property, but at one time they kept a travel trailer on the edge of the strip where they stayed four months at a time. The airport is surrounded by USFS land on three sides and both runways have grades that probably prevents line-of-sight between the runway ends. Land to the south or west.

Mrs. Hoge is interested in selling the property and intends to list all 177 acres for sale for approximately $1.6 million. I would not land here if the grass is more than 3-4 inches high (you might not even be able to locate the strip).

For Mrs. Hoges' phone number send me an e-mail

Furnace Creek – Death Valley, California
Elevation –211

Public / NPS

L06 Perhaps the lowest airstrip in the country, Furnace Creek is by all means "backcountry." The elevation is negative 211 feet and the temperatures often soar to 120/130 degrees Fahrenheit. It's owned and maintained by the Park Service and used quite frequently by the Furnace Creek Resort located one mile north. It has a 3,300-foot paved and lighted runway, 18/36. Both approaches are wide open. Be sure to watch the altimeter as it drops through "0." Avgas in March 2003 was $3.60/gallon.

Stop in anytime ... with full tanks of course.

There is another airstrip in Stove Pipe Wells and Shoshone to the north and south of Furnace Creek.

Geary Ranch – Westcliffe, Colorado
Elevation 8,300

Private / Scott Geary

CO65 Now this was an interesting phone call. I attempted to call Scott for a few days before finally getting to talk to him when he returned my call after seeing a strange phone number on his caller ID. Scott Geary happens to be in the same business as my family, car washing. We talked a ton about that and finally got to the airstrip part. Scott owns a Cessna P-210 and flies from his ranch just north of Westcliffe, Colo. The airstrip is one-way in and one-way out with a 3-percent grade uphill to the west. It lies at an elevation of 8,300 feet. The main gravel runway extends 4,000 feet. The terrain around the airstrip is basically cattle pasture, but if you fly too far west you will hit a 14,000-foot mountain.

Scott said a go-around can only be made to the north. The main reason he built his airstrip is that years ago there was a dirt airstrip down in the valley. It didn't suit his needs, so he built his own. It is closer to home too. Soon after completing the strip a gentleman bought the old strip in town and turned it into a paved, 7,000-foot airport, so he could fly in and out in a Learjet. Scott decided to keep his strip. The airstrip is in very good condition.

The airstrip is strictly for private use. Scott would consider letting a pilot use it, but only if that person calls him at 719-783-9331.

Ghost Ranch
Abiquiu, New Mexico

Ownership: Presbyterian Church of United States
~ Closed indefinitely ~

50NM I visited the Ghost Ranch on a warm December day in 2003 when I was in the area for a balloon rally. I had heard of the strip years ago while using a flight simulator. Until now I had been unable to locate any information about the airstrip.

The airstrip is located on The Ghost Ranch which was privately owned before being handed over the the Presbyterian Church by the deceased owner's estate.

The ranch is very large, some 20,000 acres and encompasses some of the most awesome scenery in this region. The Church is currently making good use of the property by running a year-round convention center for church members to take some R & R in an area with towering red rock cliffs, grass-topped mesas and the beautiful Abiquiu Reservoir (nearly dry at the time of my visit due to years of drought).

When the river was dammed and the reservoir created, the highway that ran through the area was flooded in different parts. The State of New Mexico abandoned the original highway and made a new one east of the lake. The State left several good pieces of highway between the lake and ranch, long enough to become an airstrip, so that's what it became – an airstrip that used to be a road.

At the time of my visit I was not permitted to see the airstrip because it is closed and beyond several locked gates. Only the ranch hands have keys. I was persistent and asked if the ranch hands were around to show me the way but the management of the ranch didn't seem to like the idea. They did offer some more information. A single hangar sits beside the runway and the runway itself is still in usable condition but it is closed to all traffic. The ranch personnel said they have had some trouble with people landing on it anyway.

So the Ghost Ranch no longer has an airstrip.

Trivia: The movie "The Missing" with Tommy Lee Jones was filmed entirely on location at the ranch and the nearby Jemez Mountains.

Goshute Airstrip – Ibapah, Utah
Public / Goshute Indian Tribe

Elevation 5,460

UT65 I talked to a council member of the tribe and she told me the basic facts. The strip was built in 1977 to enable people to fly in and out of the village of Ibapah, a ranching community located about 65 miles south of Wendover, Nevada.

There is a runway, but no taxiways or buildings. The council member states the strip was rather rough and they had patched it not long ago. It extends for 3,500 feet and is paved. There is transient parking available and tie-downs along the side of the runway. There is no windsock and very few trees. The approaches are open even though there are some hills and houses in the area.

Chuck McCown of Beehive Power visits frequently and claims they basically "keep it up." The runway is currently in "real good" condition according to McCown. The airstrip lies close to a military restricted area. There is some debate as to whether or not the north end of the strip is within the area. Contact Clover Control on 134.1 or 118.45 airborne or 801-777-7575 by phone. They normally grant permission to operate in the area.

McCown mentioned there is a 50-foot radio tower about 300 feet west of the airstrip. He also confirmed the approaches are wide open. There are some weeds growing through the cracks in the asphalt, but otherwise it is in good condition.

The airstrip is listed on as PRIVATE but the council member told me it was PUBLIC and open to everyone. The road from Ibapah to Wendover is paved and takes about 40 minutes to travel. Enjoy this strip, it could be a nice place to stop.

Grand Canyon North Rim – Arizona

Elevation 8,500

No ID This airstrip is ... well, no one has confirmed that it exists. It is not on any charts since 2002 and the only reason I think it exists is because the 2002 AIR/FAR book about SFAR over the Grand Canyon mentions the "North Rim Airstrip."

A quick call in March 2003 to a local pilot confirmed the strip is no longer active and was closed about 10 years ago. He claims the NPS now uses helicopters. He said the strip was not very "pilot or plane friendly" when it was open. It bowed in the center and both ends were high.


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