Boise, April 20, 2013: The United States Forest Service has issued a Special Use Permit to the Idaho Aviation Foundation (IAF) for operations at the Big Creek Lodge and public service site in Valley County, Idaho. The site is within the Payette National Forest and has operated under a special use permit from the Forest Service for many years. However, the existing permit expired a few years ago, after major operations ceased due to a 2008 fire which destroyed most of the structures on the site.

The lodge was originally built in the 1930’s to serve miners in the area and long served as an outdoor recreationist, fly-fishing, and aviators outpost, renting rooms in the summer and fall. The Big Creek Lodge site is located 12 nautical miles northeast of Yellow Pine, Idaho and adjacent to the forest’s Big Creek campground near the state-maintained Big Creek Airstrip. Big Creek flows about 50 miles from near this point down to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

The permit is for ongoing operations at the lodge site and will authorize light operations of the remaining systems and public events such as breakfasts and other drive-in events. The IAF is actively planning to rebuild a lodge on the former historic lodge site. The Special Use Permit is the second of four major approval milestones the IAF is addressing in their plans. The first was to acquire the remaining improvements on the site (accomplished October 2013), the second is the ongoing operations Special Use Permit (finalized April 2013); the third is a Master Development Plan (later in 2013); and the final is obtaining construction approval (planned for late 2013 or 2014). Assuming the milestones and fund raising objectives are met, actual construction is estimated to start in 2014 or 2015.

The IAF reports that fund raising activity has been healthy and only needs about 700 donations worth an average $500 each to attain their funding goal.

On February 12, USFS Payette Forest Supervisor Keith Lannom signed a Decision Memo to reissue a Special Use Permit for operations to resume at the Big Creek Lodge site in Idaho.  This formalizes the USFS decision that ongoing operations at Big Creek Lodge is in accordance with federal laws, statutes and in line with USFS requirements.  The Idaho Aviation Foundation (IAF) will be the Special Use Permit holder.  In partnership with the USFS, The IAF is managing a project to rebuild on the remote site where an historic lodge burned to the ground in 2008.  The site is located on USFS land, and has operated for many years with the authority of a Special Use Permit from the Payette National Forest.


“The Krassel Ranger District and the Payette National Forest have wanted public operations at Big Creek ever since the fire,” noted Krassel District Ranger Anthony Botello.  “The Decision Memo will lead to a Special Use Permit being issued after a 45-day appeal period.”  The Decision Memo is applicable for the ongoing operations at the Big Creek Lodge site, while a separate analysis will be required for the construction process on the site. The next major phase of the project is to complete the construction analysis and create a Master Development Plan in accordance with USFS requirements.  The IAF is working to complete the Master Development Plan by the Fall of 2013.  The organization will host events this summer  at the site (click here for calendar), and plans call to have the lodge completed and fully operating in 2014-2015.

January 31, 2013:The Rebuild Big Creek Lodge fundraising efforts have already raised $410,000, led by a $250,000 commitment from the IAF and other public donations of $160,000 thus far. The $800,000 objective includes provisions for designing, engineering, meeting permit requirements, transporting materials, constructing and opening the lodge plus funding to operate the lodge longer term. Should donations exceed the $800,000 goal, they will be applied to future lodge operations.

“It is evident that the public wants to create new memories at Big Creek Lodge, and we will certainly need their financial and volunteer support to succeed,” IAF Vice President and Big Creek Project Manager Colleen Back commented. To illustrate the interest level, Back indicated that many pilots and outdoor enthusiasts have already asked how they can help through donations and volunteerism. “The IAF has committed $250,000 from the General Fund, and we have received public commitments or donations totaling over $160,000 before we even began formal fundraising efforts. In addition to donors, we are grateful for our partners such as Houston-Bugatsch Architects and our marketing firm, CLM, who have generously donated major services because they believe in the cause. I’d say we are certainly off to a good start,” she continued. "The donated services from these two fine companies minimizes our professional fees, which means we can put even more of the donations toward direct building costs and permitting."

January 30, 2013: The Idaho Aviation Foundation (IAF) announced formal plans today to rebuild the historic Big Creek Lodge, part of a tiny settlement area in the Payette National Forest, just outside Idaho’s famous Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The lodge was originally built in the early 1930’s, and served backcountry pilots, hunters, fishermen and other recreationists until it and an adjacent cabin burned to the ground in October 2008. The IAF has applied for a Special Use Permit from the Payette National Forest and intends to operate the new Big Creek Lodge for the public after it is built.  IAF will also host public service functions at the existing facilities at the Lodge site between now and completion of the construction. The IAF has already developed an execution plan, acquired the remaining buildings and improvements on the Big Creek site, started fundraising efforts, and launched a website to get the public involved. See other news for updates on fund raising status.