Eye-Catching Notam For Backcountry Idaho Airstrip


In one of the more unusual Notams published recently, pilots are cautioned that an upcoming maintenance project at the Indian Creek Airstrip (S81) in Idaho includes the “potential for mules and equipment on the strip and berms” along with uneven ground and loose rocks on the 4,650-foot dirt runway. The project starts tomorrow (May 9) and the warning is in effect from 07:00 local time to 20:00 May 13.

The mules will not start work on the surfaces until mid-morning “to allow for AM traffic” and plans call for the surface to be made clear at the end of each day of the project for the next morning’s operations.

According to online information, S81, elevation 4,656 feet, is one of Idaho’s busiest backcountry strips, depending on water flows in the Middle Fork. Low flows force white-water rafters to launch near the airstrip, increasing air traffic. The airstrip reportedly has a few tiedowns and potable water available outside the Forest Service guard station. There is a solar-powered outhouse near the boat ramp and numerous campsites between the airstrip and the boat ramp, “but no amenities.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. It’s a great “starter” backcountry airstrip, very long, has go-around options, beautiful spot, accessible to any GA airplane. Walking mules to the job versus getting a modern grader into the area tells you about mobility options around that area.

  2. I was in there this morning and they hadn’t started yet. The NOTAM isn’t that eye-catching. It just says runway resurfacing in progress. Props for looking into what they’re up to though.

  3. The why of the mule team is a great story. It isn’t Amish or impossible access, the strip is one of many that sit in the largest contiguous wilderness area in the lower 48. The airstrips are access points to the area, and the negotiations prior to the 1980 Wilderness designation included grandfathering the airplane usage. Road graders weren’t grandfathered. GTS Frank Church, River of No Return.