Each month we highlight an airstrip with hopes that you will get out and enjoy these special places. This month, we’re featuring Sacaton, New Mexico.
There are plenty of reasons to enjoy recreating at Sacaton Airstrip, NM16 near Buckhorn, New Mexico. The runway lies on a “finger mesa” along the Gila Wilderness, America’s first federally designated wilderness. “It will celebrate one hundred years in 2024,” RAF New Mexico Liaison Ron Keller points out. The Rain Creek Trail, just northeast of the field takes visitors into the Wilderness. Anglers will enjoy plying streams for the rare native copper-colored Gila trout, once a threatened species. Keller reports that the mile and-a-half trail to the crossing at Rain Creek is narrow and challenging. Intrepid hikers will experience a variety of terrain, leaving Rain Creek Mesa and scattered pines to ply between steep canyon walls lined with green alder, willow and boxelder, hoodoos and eagle aeries above.
New Mexico Pilots Association and RAF volunteers worked hard re-opening the long-abandoned airstrip, and repositioned the white painted rocks that had formed the “X” indicating the airstrip’s closure. Now the rocks are a welcome sight, marking the segmented circle near the new RAF windsock. A new vault toilet is available for campers, thanks to volunteer efforts, and the U.S. Forest Service.
Sacaton’s 3,989-ft dirt runway lies at 6,200-ft elevation, so pilots should be mindful of density altitude while flying over high terrain in the vicinity, even in winter temperatures. The airstrip may be unusable due to snow or after heavy rains. This runway should be considered one way in/one way out to avoid the Wilderness boundary. There is a 4.6% upslope to the East, favoring landing Runway 08 with right traffic, remaining clear of the Wilderness east and north of the airfield. Please consider others seeking a Wilderness experience.
The nearest fuel is available at Grant County Airport, 41 nm distant. Prior to landing at Sacaton, permission is required by calling USFS Gila Dispatch center at 800-538-1644.
Submitted Novemebr 29, 2023
By Carmine Mowbray