iaflogo   Long before the Big Creek lodge was built, the Big Creek drainage attracted hundreds of miners and ranchers to the area. William and Annie Edwards established Edwardsburg in 1904 near the present-day airstrip. With a general store and post office, it became the center of commerce during the Thunder Mountain Gold Rush days.  The main mining attraction was gold, silver, lead and copper.

The U.S. Forest Service established a ranger station at Big Creek in 1920. About a decade later, brave pilots began using the adjacent pasture as a landing field.

lodge2Dick Cowman built the Big Creek lodge just south of the pasture/landing field in the mid-30s and, along with wife Sophia, operated the business until the late 1940s when he sold. Dogsleds, horses and aircraft were the key modes of transportation. Mining equipment often was packed in by mules and horses (picture, above).

In 1933, the road to Yellow Pine over Profile Summit was completed. Prior to that, the main road to the area was from Warren, a difficult 40-mile trip--which contributed to making the area mining operations financially unattractive. The Big Creek lodge, general store and gas station provided a sanctuary for those headed upstream or downstream. Lafe Cox, a rancher on Big Creek, got the mail contract in the early 1940s. His job was to distribute the mail from Yellow Pine to Big Creek, and then to ranches beyond as far as Cabin Creek. It was a 45-mile route. He used airplanes, sled dogs, horses, snowshoes and the occasional truck to get it done. Lafe often stayed at the lodge where he could enjoy a meal and even phone is wife via the ‘crank’ phone that connected Big Creek with the nearby world outside. 

The Forest Service, working with local miners, improved the landing field to a smooth length of about 1,300 feet, but it was not until the early 1940s that they made major drainage improvements. Then in 1957, the airstrip was completely rebuilt and extended to its current length of nearly 3,600 feet. The Forest Service continued to operate the airstrip until 1961when it issued a special use permit to the Idaho Department of Aeronautics. Now the Division of Aeronautics, the state continues to manage and maintain the airstrip.

References: Idaho Historical Society, Lafe & Emma Cox - “Idaho Mountains Our Home.”  

Richard H. Holm Jr. - “Bound for the Backcountry.”