Pilots flock to new airstrip near Eureka Springs, Berryville

Published: Oct. 18, 2016 at 5:37 PM CDT
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Folks in the Eureka Springs and Berryville area may see more visitors from farther away. A new attraction has them flying in.

A grassy spot high in the Ozark mountains is Carroll County's newest draw for those who fly, including Harper Goodwin, who flies "anything from a Cessna 150 to a Boeing triple 7," he said.

Goodwin was an American Airlines pilot for years, and now flies his own six-seat plane.

"But this is all new to me, flying the back country stuff," said Goodwin.

He was just a few miles away from the new Trigger Gap Airfield, a project of the Recreational Aviation Foundation. It's 3,000 feet long and 75 feet wide.

"So for a back country airstrip, this is a large airstrip," Goodwin said.

RAF Members just added the finishing touches a couple weeks ago, and, with about 8,000 of them nationwide, the word is getting out.

"On weekends, there a lot of aviation activity that you're probably not even aware of, that people are flying in to back country places like this," Goodwin said.

The land belongs to The Nature Conservancy, a worldwide conservation organization.

"The reason they want this property is because of the Kings River and stream bank stabilization," said Goodwin.

"I think it's pretty neat, because there's only two things that really don't leave a trace, and that's airplanes and canoes," said Ernie Kilman, Kings River Outfitters owner.

Folks who fly in can park their airplanes and enjoy some hiking and even primitive camping right on site, or they can have a local business like Kings River Outfitters come and pick them up.

"There could be people who fly in, who maybe just want to go fishing. We pick them up, bring them in, go put them in the boats, have them fish the trophy section, and then at the end of the day, pick them up and take them back to their plane," said Kilman.

"The Kings River is the cleanest river in this whole part of the United States, best kept secret," Kilman said.

Whether pilots and their passengers are coming for the natural beauty or to visit nearby Eureka Springs or Berryville, the airstrip brings a whole new getaway for those with wings.

Goodwin says the Recreational Aviation Foundation has targeted the Ozarks for up to eight more similar airstrips. Learn more about the RAF at the link to the right side of this story.