This airstrip is not for those inexperienced with mountain flying or landing at an airport located deep within a valley. Pilots need to operate in a safe manner, and within good mountain flying guidelines. As with many airstrips in the mountains, landing patterns will be irregular and flown close to terrain.
The airstrip is located near the top of the Crystal River Canyon immediately west of the town of Marble at an elevation of 7700 MSL. Approaching from all points north, you will generally enter the canyon south of Carbondale (right-west side of Mt. Sopris) and continue upstream past Redstone. Approaching from the west (or south), you should use McClure Pass and turn right-upstream immediately. Carbondale, Redstone, and McClure Pass all make good reporting points of your altitude and direction on 122.9. It is recommended that you stay on the right side of the canyon upstream and downstream. Just past McClure pass, about 4.5 miles from the airport, you should expect to be on the right side of the canyon at 9000 MSL and slowing to a reduced pattern speed to allow easier turns in the narrowing canyon.
Winds allowing, most landings are upstream-east at this 3800 foot long grass runway. Straight-in approaches from the west are strongly discouraged. The runway is not visible around a blind corner and there is often head-on traffic departing downstream. A recommended technique is to stay near the right valley wall and continue upstream past the airstrip. Announce your intentions on 122.9 and be especially watchful for traffic departing downstream-west which would oppose your final approach. Turn onto a left crosswind and then downwind near the north side (flying downstream-west). Start descending as the terrain allows. Base leg is flown across the valley until the runway is clearly in sight. Again, watch for oncoming traffic and activity on the runway as you get turned onto final.
Be prepared for some sink over the lake at the end of the runway and try to remember that the runway is still over 90 feet wide near the middle. If necessary, be prepared to go around as early as possible due to rising terrain upstream-east and the diminished climb performance you will have from high density altitude. Going around is usually accomplished by climbing over the trees and shifting to the right over the river. The valley widens significantly in less than a mile upstream and allows plenty of room for climbing and maneuvering.
Landing to the west-downstream when the winds are westerly is more difficult even though a no-obstacle go around would be easier. Again, announce intentions on 122.9 from the approach position on the right-upstream side of the valley while you can see the entire runway. From there, begin a descending left downwind with a teardrop base to the final approach. Due to the hill near the approach end of the runway, there will be a squeeze between being too high on short final and clearing the trees on the hill. The start of the 3800 foot runway length is the white line (marble, of course) between the tall pine trees. You may have to remind yourself that the slot in the trees is wide enough to descend into.
Remember that only you, the pilot-in-command, have responsibility for your passengers and yourself to be adequately prepared for the unique conditions at Marble including the narrow canyon, terrain affecting approach and go-around, and density altitude. There has been a fatality at this airstrip and nobody wants you to repeat that mishap. Please be safe and prepared.
Aircraft generally depart west-downstream when the winds allow. Climb out on the right side of the valley and be watchful for opposite direction landing traffic. Tail winds out of the east of even 10 knots generate a large area of sink off the west end of the runway that has caused serious pucker for several pilots when they were unable to climb above 100 feet AGL for several miles downstream (one of them was a 300HP C-185 running perfectly). Takeoffs to the east may be more promising under these conditions (by climbing above tree height and offsetting to the right over the river) but it is suspected that downhill winds in the eastern valley might still present problems. If the winds are more than 8-10 knots out of the east, don't take off west. And, if you have any misgivings about your ability to climb in the eastern end of the canyon, stay on the ground until the winds are more favorable.
Location: Immediately west of the town of Marble, CO, paralleling the Crystal River
Coordinates: N 39° 04.496' W 107° 12.825'
Elevation: 7700 MSL
Length: 3800 feet
Windsock: Western third, north side, on top of a large block of white marble
Hazards: Narrow valley, hill and rising terrain east, tall trees both sides of runway
Above photo, looking south, shows airstrip just past the northern ridge of the canyon, formed by 11,800 foot Elk Mountain. The 10,500 foot Ragged Mountains are seen in the background as the southern canyon ridge. Approach is from the right (west) edge of this photo and the large beaver pond is mid-field. Another pond is just beyond the west runway end at the right of this photo.
Aerial view of the airstrip (west at top) with 3800 x 90 foot runway.
Bring and use your own tie-downs.
Nearby fishing, hiking, and biking are great.
The owner requires that you fill out a completed Liability Release. You can request the release forms by emailing MarbleAirstrip@gmail.com. You must also request and receive written permission from MarbleAirstrip@gmail.com prior to landing. Please plan ahead before your trip and allow a reasonable amount of time to receive permission to land.