|Sunrise at the Red Butte Airfield|
Last June I turned back from a trek to the Moqui Stage Station in the Kaibab National Forest south of the Grand Canyon. It seemed the better part of valor to come back another time when the axle-sucking mud had dried up. Instead, I hiked to the fire lookout tower on Red Butte that day and enjoyed long views of passing storms.
I was curious about a large clearing and buildings to the northwest. My friend, helicopter pilot Maria Langer, blogged about this spot, and when I learned it was a 1920s hangar from the first Grand Canyon Scenic Airport, I needed to go back.
I made that trip last week. Like Maria, I made a wrong turn and endured a really bad road until I got smart enough to turn around and try again.
I let out an involuntary gasp as I rounded the last corner and saw the Hangar, ca 1927. Grand Canyon scenic flights originated here beginning in 1928 and intermittently until the 1960s. Images of Charles Lindbergh here in 1928 are posted on the web and Amelia Earhart and Will Rogers are said to have visited as well.
The old hangar is in rough shape, and it appears that anything not nailed down has been removed. Still, the dirt floor (if you can ignore the signs of use by cattle) and vintage fittings and signage are evocative of another time. You’ll also see a few other buildings and a corral.
Notes on access;
This is one of those places that wouldn’t benefit from increased traffic; it’s been beaten up enough already. I’m sure you, like I, wouldn’t dream of touching anything (let alone vandalizing or souvenir-hunting), but others are not so careful given the shotgun shells and trash scattered around. Location information is available elsewhere on the web but I won’t post it here.
There seems to be some confusion about the permissibility of visiting the site at all. Some private parties claim that the entire area is leased and that entering it constitutes trespassing. Others say the land is public and the buildings are privately owned. The Kaibab National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Map (Tusayan District) shows the road to the old airport as open to all vehicles and, despite looking diligently, I saw no “No Trespassing” signs on site. I spoke to a Kaibab ranger in the Tusayan District Office by phone who knew of no restrictions. She referred me to the current Grand Canyon Airport, where I was told that the lease had expired and there were no restrictions.
|San Francisco Peaks and Red Butte through the windows.|