Volunteers Rebuilding Iconic Backcountry Idaho Lodge After Fire

Jul 17, 2015

Volunteers are scheduled to break ground Saturday on the rebuilding of the Big Creek Lodge in the Payette National Forest.

For 75 years, Big Creek Lodge was the vacation spot for hundreds of pilots, campers, and firefighters, looking for adventure in the remote Payette National Forest. But seven years ago, the lodge burned to the ground.

Now, the Forest Service and a non-profit group are working to rebuild.

The original lodge was built in the 1930s. It became home to one of Idaho’s backcountry airstrips, and attracted a diverse group of people who wanted to spend time in the state’s wild areas.

It's 20 miles from Yellow Pine, deep in the Payette National Forest, right on the edge of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

Those who flew into Big Creek Lodge say the place was special.

Colleen Back is with the non-profit Idaho Aviation Foundation. She says the old Lodge was very special to a lot of people because it was remote, yet offered a safe place to stay.

A fire in October of 2008 destroyed the main Lodge and some outbuildings, to the dismay of visitors.
Credit Walt Smith

“So people can reach out and touch the wilderness and reach out and touch being in the backcountry and still have the safety and services of people being there,” says Back.

She says being able to spend nights in the cabin and days surrounded by wilderness is a unique experience.

“Big Creek is not a place that will cure cancer or solve the educational problems that we have, but it’s really soothing to the soul. That’s what most people say about going to Big Creek.”

Back says the Foundation and the Forest Service are rebuilding the site, working together to bring back the rustic feeling of the lodge. They’ve raised $700,000 of the $900,000 cost and are still looking for volunteers to help with the project, which should be complete in 2016.

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