RAF Alaska Liaison Jeff DeFreest and his wife Kari – who serves as an RAF VP of Appreciation – have the privilege of accessing many of Southeast Alaska’s US Forest Service lakefront cabins available for rent. They are enthusiastic about promoting and preserving the experience for others who wish to visit the Alaskan wilderness and stay warm, dry and secure for a few dollars a night. 

DeFreests are sharing some resources beginning with the November-December issue of Water FlyingOn page 5, you’ll find the article on these facilities, and a comprehensive website of 122 of the cabins. Originally researched and created by Montana RAF supporter and pilot Tom Bass in his straight-float Cessna 180, pilot Bill Rusk called the directory “an incredible resource,” and was concerned about its future when Mr. Bass retired from flying. The online directory is now managed by the Seaplane Foundation, sponsored in part by the Seaplane Pilots Association, and is administered by Mr. Rusk. 

DeFreest is concerned that Alaska’s fly-in lake cabins are threatened with decommissioning due to lack of use. He points out that the USFS tracks cabin utilization based on reservations made through the website or mobile app.

“Awareness and recognition of the cabin system should bolster utilization, and in turn the Forest Service will keep them up,” DeFreest said. He urges pilots to explore the remarkable opportunities to enjoy Alaska, and book accordingly. It is not necessary that you own and fly a seaplane. Water Flying points out that there are other ways to access these gems. 

“The RAF has been great to agree to help with the cabins and their utilization. They are an incredible resource and the floatplane equivalent of backcountry airstrips. They are the epitome of ‘recreational aviation,’” Mr. Rusk added. 

Submitted January 30, 2024
By Carmine Mowbray


  1. Barbara Hunt on February 3, 2024 at 3:57 am


  2. danny on March 8, 2024 at 4:05 pm

    Please leave a list of the least visited of these USFS cabins so we may all know which ones to visit the soonest.

    • Jeff DeFreest on March 13, 2024 at 12:57 am

      Hi Danny – The Tongass cabins are an amazing public resource, and they all have something special to offer – whether it be back country access, or hunting/fishing access, or a beautiful place to experience the “Alaskan wilderness”. There are many fly in cabins located within congressionally designated Wilderness areas, and when those are lost to decommissioning, they can’t be put back. Cabins in other (non-Wilderness) management areas of the National Forest can be decommissioned and potentially rebuilt or relocated in the future. The best advice I’d have to offer is to visit the fly-in lake cabins that offer something of interest to you and then let it be known! You can help spread the word. Write in the cabin logbook, post on the Tongass Cabin Users Facebook page, let the Ranger District know about your experience (& of course share any problems or repairs needed that you find).

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