Idaho History Mar 3, 2019

Old Yellow Pine Airfield

Navion Plane at Yellow Pine Airstrip


Jack Lucas on Navion plane at Yellow Pine strip near the town, not on the mine property
(Undated, possibly between 1930-1965)

source: ITD archives
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Old Yellow Pine Airfield

by Bill Fogg

I can’t help but think that since Dad [Bob Fogg] transferred to McCall to manage that operation for Bob Johnson of Johnson Flying Service in 1943 or 1944, that he and some of his pilots may have used that old original Yellow Pine Airstrip, before Johnson Creek [Bryant Ranch] was completed. In a more recent book “Bound for the Backcountry A History of Idaho’s Remote Airstrips” Authored by McCall resident Richard H . Holm Jr., he has a very brief synopsis of the USFS building in the late 1930’s the east- west lading field west of Yellow Pine and on the opposite side of the river. He also has a more recent aerial photo of where it was with Yellow Pine in the background of the photo. It appears in the photo to be rather overgrown with brush and small trees, but it is still visible where they cleared and built the airstrip.

source: personal correspondence
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Yellow Pine Airfield

by Richard H . Holm Jr.


Caption: Johnson Flying Service Ford Tri-Motor NC7861 parked at the Yellow Pine airfield circa 1942
photo from Sandy McRae courtesy Richard Holm

The town of Yellow Pine was originally referred to as Yellow Pine Basin. Albert Behne was the first person to settle here in 1902. About three years later Behne brought a post office to the small settlement. Several others followed Behne, including Theodore Van Meter, who started a general store. Behne lived there until his death in 1945.

Caption: A 1950’s view of Yellow Pine
(click image for very large zoomable size)

… In the late 1930s the USFS built an east-west landing field west of town on the opposite side of the river. A small road and bridge were built across the East Fork of the South Fork to access the strip. The finished runway measured 2300′ long and 100′ wide.

At certain times in the history of Stibnite their airfield could not be used, particularly for big loads during wet springs. Still in need of material Stibnite would plow to Yellow Pine, and haul by truck the material that was delivered to the lower Yellow Pine airstrip. Johnson Flying Service of Cascade hauled a lot of freight to the Yellow Pine strip during these periods, especially in the spring of 1942 and 1943. Dick Johnson and Penn Stohr Sr. flew most of the freight. In April and May of 1943 Johnson alone flew to the strip from McCall for thirty days straight using company Travel Airs and Ford Tri-Motors. There were multiple days when several trips were made per day; the most impressive being four freight flights on both May 27 and 30 of 1943 with Ford NC8400.

Caption: Looking east with the town of Yellow Pine in the background – the old runway is visible in the center of the photograph.
(click image for very large zoomable size)

It was no surprise that with the operation of the larger aircraft at the field that the maximum amount of space possible was desired. The topic arose in May 1942. The Idaho NF had discussed clearing a few large trees along the southwest half of the landing Stohr was consulted and helped the USFS mark forty-nine trees for removal.

The field received little use after World War II and over the years trees slowly encroached. The outline of the runway is still visible. The bridge from the main road was removed and later replaced by a cable car.

The last attempted landing on the strip occurred in the 1980s when a student pilot was signed off for a solo cross-country to Johnson Creek. Upon arriving in the vicinity the pilot confused the Yellow Pine strip for Johnson Creek. She set up for a landing even though she knew it was not right. Mowing down small trees the plane was destroyed but the pilot escaped with minor injuries.

Caption: Looking west at Yellow Pine with the cut of the abandoned airstrip paralelling the East Fork, opposite the road.
(click image for very large zoomable size)

(from pg 237-239) “Bound for the Backcountry A History of Idaho’s Remote Airstrips” by McCall resident Richard H . Holm Jr. (reprinted with permission)
Get the book at Amazon:
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The Old Yellow Pine Airfield

by John Sumner

Before the Johnson Creek Airfield was fully developed, a Yellowpiner by the name of Bus Pickens used an airstrip on the U. S. Forest Service land about one-mile southwest of Yellow Pine, which seems to have been built in the late 30s. Though it could have been a more convenient strip, the approaches were dangerous and difficult, thus later effort was focused on the Bryant Ranch location.

The final story goes, according to Fred Bachich, that Pickens had an aircraft accident on the Yellow Pine airstrip in 1954. He was so angry at the situation that he blew up the bridge across the East Fork that was the only access to the airfield, which ended that venture.

In competition with Murph’s joint across the street, Pickens built the Mahogany Bar (named for the mountain mahogany shrub (Cerocarphys ledifolius), which has a beautiful red-grained wood and is indigenous to south-facing sunny slopes in the Yellow Pine Basin) in the late ’40s, adding to his bar a small cabin, now the pool room, built much earlier by Chas. Ellision. Across the river on the old airstrip, Pickens had built a makeshift hanger for his airplane. The propeller from his wrecked airplane still hangs on the wall in the Mahogany Bar.

The Mahogany Bar was originally called the “Silver Dollar Bar” and these large coins were embedded on the bar surface with an inscription by the donor. After Pickens sold the bar to Tom Nicolas (formerly with the Idaho Department of Aeronautics), he returned by the dark of night to remove the 800-piece coin collection.

excerpted from Aviation and Yellow Pine pg 70 “Yellow Pine, Idaho” compiled by Nancy G. Sumner
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1974 Topo Map


The old Yellow Pine Airfield to the west of Yellow Pine is still marked on this 1974 Topo map.

(This is the top right corner of Caton Creek plus the top left corner of Yellow Pine topo maps.)

source: USGS topo maps