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A New Chapter in the Life and Times of Sulphur Creek Ranch

Manager Kiere Schroeder and resident dog Tober, watch Mike Dorris take off to the west avoiding the smoke wall to the east, after dropping much needed supplies to the ranch.

Last fall, the Boundary Fire devastated more than 90,000 areas of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River drainage. The fire threatened Sulphur Creek Ranch for nine straight weeks. The fire mapping looked like the original Pac Man game. Pac Man was consuming the forest around Sulphur Creek Ranch from three directions getting closer to the buildings each successive day.


The fire Initially started at the southeast end of the SCR airstrip and headed more than 45 miles northeast to the Middle Fork Lodge on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River before it circled back and hit SCR from the west for the final insult.


Kiere and ValDean Schroeder and their crew of two, surrounded by flames with no exit available, immediately switched from “hosting guests and fly-in breakfasts” to feeding firefighters stationed at the ranch.



All the ranch structures were saved! The forest wasn’t so lucky…


Post fire, the challenge was getting the horses out via the 5-mile trail to the trail head. US Forest Service crews were deployed to cut away hundreds of fallen trees piled up like pixie sticks and completely blocking the only viable egress option.




Kiere & ValDean, considering the devastating fire, were in consultation with the ranch owners this winter and made the difficult decision to close the ranch for 2022 and possibly beyond that.


The Schroeder's will continue to operate the ranch into the future but not with the same business model as we have all come to know. A bit melancholy and bittersweet!


What is SCR up against in the first-year post forest fire? First and foremost, it will not be safe for people to walk or ride through the forest. Old growth trees burned in the fire are now standing dead which poses a great risk for people and stock traveling through the forest. Trees will be falling and will continue to fall with the normal pattern of afternoon winds.

The hydroelectric system may or may not survive the spring runoff and be able to provide adequate clean water and power. Without a forest, water runoff will produce large amounts of silt and dirt which have notoriously in the past, plugged up collection boxes and penstock delivery systems in other Middle Fork ranches post massive forest fire devastation.

Without knowing ahead of time about power and water, it's not possible to prepare for the upcoming season.

Grocery and fuel prices are skyrocketing with no potential end in sight! New Federal mandates governing overtime standards and upwardly spiraling wages have put a heavy burden on small business payrolls, not to mention back country remote lodges where the staff lives at their workplace. This, along with the lingering effects of the pandemic, make it almost impossible to adequately determine what a baseline cost of doing business will be.


It’s time for reevaluation, reflection, and re-direction.


After 12 years of full-tilt service at Sulphur Creek, the now “managers” look forward to a semi-retirement and the ability to refresh the ranch and rejuvenating themselves! They will be called “caretakers” and will steward Sulphur Creek Ranch as they work on many projects together this summer.


Owning or managing one of these Idaho backcountry ranches is a bit akin to owning a historic warbird: you are taking care of it for the next generation.


The first time I ever laid eyes on Sulphur Creek Ranch was July 13, 2010, with Galen Hanselman in his 182. As we reported our downwind, someone on the ground picked up a hand-held radio and shouted at us not to land; the ranch was closed for the day. That was the day the former staff quit without warning. Later that afternoon, Kiere & ValDean were brought in. Since then, they have worked tirelessly to improve the cabins, food, service, and traditions and made hundreds of friends.


Thanks Kiere & ValDean for all the fun times; we wish you well this summer as you work to help the ranch recover from the fire.


Crista Worthy

Editor, The Flyline

Idaho Aviation Association



Thank you Crista! You have always been a loyal supporter, a damn good writer, and dear friend of ours!!

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