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Tuesday, February 20, 2001
SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Flying to the
Bar 10 Ranch

The Bar 10 Ranch is located about nine miles from the north rim of the Grand Canyon, just west of the Mt. Logan wilderness area. It is a 45-minute flight from Las Vegas, Nevada, or Page, Arizona, and a 35-minute flight from St. George, Utah. The Bar 10 airstrip (1Z1) can be found on the Las Vegas sectional and the Grand Canyon VFR chart at N 36.15.5 W113.13.9. Most flying stops by midday, as temperatures and winds both pick up. At 4100’ elevation the density altitude can get pretty high in the summer, so some preflight planning and a few performance computations are in order.
For pilots arriving from farther south in Arizona, Colorado, or from New Mexico, the Grand Canyon VFR Chart is a must. It has the airspace divisions with the altitude restrictions clearly listed. From the south, you may over-fly the Canyon in the Diamond Creek sector by staying at or above 9,000 feet. If arriving from Colorado, or points east, you can stay north of the airspace restrictions for the easiest access, or for a more spectacular ride, use the Fossil Canyon corridor to transit the restricted airspace. Again, do not attempt to over-fly the Canyon without a current Grand Canyon VFR chart. It really isn’t difficult to fly over the Grand Canyon. Just observe the few rules and altitude restrictions and all should go well. (See the Jun/Jul 99 issue of SW Aviator for more on flying the Grand Canyon, available online at
It is a good idea to monitor the radio on 127.05 to keep abreast of the sightseeing planes, which traverse the area constantly. My experience has been that the tour pilots are very good about reporting their positions and watching out for the stray transient plane. Believe me, the Grand Canyon is a very busy place. In fact, the FAA was formed in 1956 because of the mid-air collision between a United DC-6 and an Air Force Jet over the Canyon.
Once near the Bar 10 switch to 122.9. The ranch personnel as well as other incoming flights monitor this frequency. The runway runs north and south on a 34 – 16 heading, left traffic. It is downhill and down-canyon to the south, so a landing to the north is the norm. Even the presence of a tailwind from the south should not preclude a north landing unless the wind is just too strong – in which case you have probably arrived too late in the day. The airstrip sits down inside the Whitmore wash, but there is plenty of room to maneuver within the canyon walls. Be aware of winds off the canyon walls and stay on the upwind side, and mind thy airspeed while maneuvering! The 4600 x 40-foot dirt runway is in good condition, and appropriate for most any light aircraft. Watch for horses and livestock on the runway. There is parking, with some tie-downs, on the northeast side. Be sure to leave enough room for the commercial operators to load and unload their passengers. There is no public fuel available. It is a short walk up the hill to the Bar 10 Ranch, or you can call them on 122.9 for a ride.

Bar 10 Ranch
Grand Canyon Adventure Headquarters

By Mark Swint, photos by Mark Swint and Bar 10 Ranch

No repertoire of destinations in the “Great Southwest” can be considered complete without a foray into the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. Unfortunately, wilderness advocates and politicians have done their level best to get airplanes out of this beautiful area by placing the most onerous flight restrictions in the country over the Canyon. Now, the newest issue to assault the aviation industry is the growing call for preservation of the “soundscape.” This means that those few hardy and ‘hard body’ enough to tread, on foot, into and around America’s great open spaces feel they deserve to have their “Wilderness experience” protected to the point that no external intrusion, including far off airplane noise, is allowable. Knowing the efforts taken by the FAA and others, most pilots tend to exclude anything dealing with the Grand Canyon from their flight plans. While understandable, I can tell you this is a mistake, as the canyon still has a great many adventures to offer.

One adventure in particular allows you to land inside the Grand Canyon, at the Bar 10 Ranch. The Bar 10 is a fascinating study of how widely differing uses of the Grand Canyon — Eco-tourism, cattle ranching, and aircraft operations — can be harmoniously blended for the benefit of all.
It is easy to forget just how unique our American west is, yet living in the tourist-Mecca of Las Vegas, I have come to realize just how many people travel from all over the world to experience its beauty. While the glitter of Las Vegas has it’s own appeal, many of the visitors to this place spend great sums of money and time to get out and see the wide open spaces of the desert Southwest. There are numerous scenic flight operators in and around Las Vegas who specialize in aerial tours of the Grand Canyon. These air tours allow literally thousands of tourists each year to see firsthand the unparalleled beauty and ruggedness of the magnificent canyons carved from the flow of the mighty Colorado River. Thousands more adventurous tourists see the Canyon from below, on multi-day float trips down the Colorado River. These people come away changed, and forever more appreciative of the grandeur of nature and the wonders she has wrought. The hard working folks at the Bar 10 Ranch have found a way to enable visitors to enjoy the best of both approaches to seeing this magnificent American treasure.

The Bar 10 Ranch is located within the Grand Canyon on the north side. It is a fascinating place, with a rich history and many opportunities to get a taste of the old west, and to see the Grand Canyon up-close and personal. The Bar 10 Ranch is a working cattle ranch, with over 600 head roaming around on 600 sections (that’s about 39,000 acres) of deeded and BLM land, over an area known as the “Arizona Strip.” The Arizona Strip comprises all of the land between the Utah border and the Colorado River, cutoff from the rest of Arizona by the canyons of the Colorado, including the Grand Canyon.

The Bar 10 is nestled in a side canyon of the Grand Canyon called Whitmore Wash. The wash was named by John Wesley Powell, the famous explorer for whom Lake Powell is named, and the first man to navigate the treacherous Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. He first came upon the wash in the 1870’s when he met with the local Indian leaders and Jacob Hamblin, an early Mormon leader who worked closely with the Indians. Powell had come to learn the fate of three of his men who had left the Grand Canyon expedition at Separation Canyon (downstream from the Bar 10), and vanished. He was saddened to hear they had been killed. At the same time he heard about Robert McIntire and James Whitmore, who had met a similar fate, each receiving the business end of over a dozen arrows apiece. He named the wash after the Whitmore family.

Cattle ranching has been a part of the area since the west was settled. The Arizona Strip was originally ranched by the Mormon Church in the mid to late 1800’s. Members of the Church practiced the law of tithing — giving 10 percent of their gain to the Lord. Since many members had no cash, they gave in kind, e.g., if they had 10 calves, they would give one calf to the Church. As a result, the Church soon had a large number of cattle. Many of the Arizona Strip cattle and ranchers of today are descendants of that Church cattle industry, including the present-day owners of the Bar 10, Tony and Ruby Heaton.

The Heatons began buying-up small ranches on the Arizona Strip in the 1960’s. They ultimately ended up with four ranches, spanning an area from Tuweep to Mt. Trumbull, and ran cattle on over 10,000 deeded acres and 100,000 BLM acres. As was common in these isolated expanses, access to the ranch house was simplified by adding an airstrip to the property. Coincidentally, about this same time tourists began running the Colorado River in rubber rafts. Soon, many hundreds of people were cruising down the river through the Grand Canyon, just down-wash from the Bar 10.

In the early 1970’s, cattle prices fell, interest rates soared, and Tony soon found himself in a bind. As a solution to his problems, he turned to the river. By the time river rafters got to a point near his Bar 10 Ranch they had already been on the river for seven days, exactly the length of time most people can budget for a vacation, and near a persons maximum endurance level for the cold water, hot sun, and primitive camping conditions of a Colorado River raft trip. Tony thought there had to be a way to make some extra money helping these people out of the Canyon.

Using an egress system developed by Mel Heaton and David Johnson (Tony's cousins) in the late 1960's, Tony figured out how rafters could use his airstrip to catch flights back to Las Vegas. He quickly organized teams of mules and was soon bringing wet, sunburned, awestruck tourists up from the river to his ranch. The journey would take one hour by mule to the rim of the inner canyon, and another hour in an old converted school bus to the airstrip where waiting planes would ferry them to Las Vegas. Relieved of their passengers, the large empty rafts would have to continue for another four days down through the remainder of the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead. It wasn’t long before Tony saw an opportunity there too. He, along with his wife and children, worked with the tour operators to restock the boats with a fresh batch of rafters, flown-in to his ranch. Soon, the airstrip was a hotbed of activity as planes shuttled people in and out day after day.

That first year in the mid 1970’s, the Heaton’s efforts ferried just 125 people, but by 1983 they were seeing 1200 people per summer. At that point, the family decided to build a lodge to expand the experience for the river runners. The lodge, still in use today, has a kitchen and a large great room for evening gatherings. Six bedrooms provide indoor, dormitory style accommodations with bunk-beds, though heartier guests can opt to sleep outside in one of thirteen Conestoga covered wagons that are circled on the back lawn.

In 1985, the Heatons set aside the mules in favor of helicopters, and quickly saw the number of visitors to the Bar 10 Ranch increase to 6,000 per season. Today the traffic is upwards of 10,000 visitors from May 1st to October 15th. The 4230’ dirt airstrip sees as many as 30 aircraft in a single morning.

The Bar 10 Ranch is now a destination, as well as a changeover point for rafters. Fly-in pilots are always welcome, and there is plenty to do and see when you visit. For starters, you will be treated to a fine meal and a Wild West show, complete with pretty dancing girls and a re-enactment of a gunfight. The Heaton family tries hard to put on a great show that “brings the west alive.” Horseback riding is available, and customized group tours may include guided ATV tours, rock climbing lessons, and lessons on Indian lore, as well as instruction on subjects such as astronomy, geology, and paleontology. The Bar 10 is still a working cattle ranch, so visitors can get a taste of that life as well, with demonstrations of real ranching operations such as branding and roping. The Bar 10 Trading Post sells river supplies, books, gifts, snacks, T-shirts and other unique souvenirs.

Lest you worry that the ranch is too commercial, it should be noted that the Heaton family's philosophy is to uplift and inspire their guests by preserving the pristine feeling of remoteness and seclusion from the everyday. They are adamant about preserving the area and its rich history, and are as averse to over-development and exploitation as anyone. The Heaton family has grown up with this land for generations, and I doubt you will find anyone with more love and respect for it than they have.

The Bar 10 Ranch also provides a unique setting for group fly-ins, family reunions, vacations, business retreats, youth groups, church groups, or other excursions. Their regular season is May through September, but off-season dates may be arranged. The lodge facilitates up to 60 guests. The Bar 10 Ranch welcomes visitors year round, though a call ahead is always wise (435-628-4010). For more detailed information about a visit to the Bar 10 Ranch you can check out their web site at Reservations can be made by email at, or by calling the ranch at 800-582-4139.

I encourage you to consider the Bar 10 Ranch for your next flying adventure. Both the trip there and the experience once on the ground will be truly unique, and will live on well past your visit. The accomplishments of all the hardworking folks at the Bar 10 are an excellent example of how judicious use of technology, combined with a love and respect for the land, can open the wonders of the Grand Canyon to adventurous visitors who would otherwise be excluded from knowing the treasures hidden within its majestic depths.

Four Generations on the Arizona Strip

The Heaton family’s roots at the Bar 10 Ranch on the Arizona Strip run deep. They began in the late 1800’s, when the family of James Andrews was assigned the task of overseeing the Mormon Church cattle ranching operations.

Ruby’s great grandfather was George Lytle, who as a young man was one of the people who worked for James Andrews. George was orphaned at the age of six when his mother died. He was raised on the Arizona Strip by James Andrews and learned the cattle business from the ground up. There were good and bad things about growing up on the Arizona Strip. One of the bad things was that it was hard on his social life -- no girls! He was 29 years old when he went to southern Utah and married a Mormon girl. This was in December 1899, and the cattle business had made him a millionaire.

After the turn of the century, another prominent rancher from eastern Utah, Preston Nutter, moved into the area with his operation. Nutter brought in a gang of hands considered by the locals as “Texas Outlaws.” They were successful in scaring off most of the settlers, and Lytle eventually sold-out to Nutter as well. He moved north and bought a ranch in southern Utah called “Mountain Meadows.” This ranch had its own infamy as the site of the 1860’s “Mountain Meadows Massacre.” But, as they say, that’s another story.

Tony's great grandfather was another Mormon pioneer, who had walked across the plains from Illinois on foot with the McArthur Handcart Company. Jonathan Heaton was a hard working man who founded the ranching community of Moccasin, Arizona. Eventually, Lytle’s daughter married Heaton’s son Gilbert, and the cattle ranching tradition continued with the new couple. Gilbert was, however, the youngest of several sons, and when Jonathan died, he found that his share of the inheritance was small. He decided to take his bride and start fresh in southeastern Nevada. They eventually built a large ranch in the area from Toole Desert to Clover Mountain in Nevada, but hard times and health problems befell them, and in the 1950’s they were forced to sell it all.

With no ranch to tend, Gilbert’s son Tony moved over the hill to St. George, Utah with his new bride Ruby, where they both became schoolteachers. It’s a fact though, that cattle ranching never really gets out of the blood of a true rancher - and so in the 1960’s, Tony and Ruby began buying up small ranches back on the Arizona Strip, thereby returning to their roots, and founding the Bar 10 Ranch.

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
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