Last month’s focus on Show Low offered pilots a great entry point to the White Mountains for everything the mountains and the town has to offer. This month we’ll move a little further to the east and take a look at the smaller town of Springerville (KJTC). Not only does the location of this airport offer another entry point to the White Mountains, there are fantastic historical sites nearby worth taking the time to see.
Springerville is located about 140NM nearly due east from Phoenix and about 5 miles from the New Mexico border, nestled right in the heart of the White Mountains. Mountains immediately to the west and south of the airport are over 10,000 ft and 11,000 ft MSL! The airport sits at a lofty 7,055 ft MSL in the evening shadow of these mountains. Density altitude calculations are a must any time of year, and the nearby mountains can complicate arrivals and departures with blustery winds and local weather patterns.
If departing to the east from Phoenix, you’ll climb over the Mazatzal range with the majestic Four Peaks off your wing. As you leave the low desert behind, the terrain quickly rises and remains rocky and high for the duration of the flight. Approaching the White Mountains, the hills quickly rise to jagged peaks. Detouring north towards Show Low offers a path around without the high climb needed otherwise. Arrivals from Tucson or Flagstaff can use the same method of detouring to the northwest of the larger peaks to get in to the airport.
Pilots understand that mountains can sometimes create their own micro-weather, and the White Mountains are no exception. Give AWOS-3PT a call on your way in to get a feel for the weather on the ground, or call them prior to takeoff at 928-333-5716. There are often many military aircraft operating in the nearby Jackal, Reserve, Cato and Smitty MOAs, so keep your scan active until you’re parked on the ramp. Springerville is also an active airport during the firefighting season. Runway 3/21 is the longer of the available pair at 8422’ x 75’. The crosswind runway 11/29 is 4603’x60’. Both are paved, lighted, and in excellent condition. Note that Runway 21 is right traffic for noise abatement. Once on the ground, transient parking and the terminal building area are near the intersection of the runways.
The airport is staffed Friday through Tuesday from 0800 – 1600 local time. 100LL and Jet-A is available from the town of Springerville. At the time of this writing, self-service was priced at a modest $4.75 and $3.62, respectively. Full service is available during operational hours, or on callout with an additional fee. With the significant military operations in the area, you’re likely to see some amazing military hardware taking on fuel. The airport offers a gorgeous and modern terminal building with a pilot’s lounge and restrooms. Tie down fees of $5/night for a single-engine, $10/night for a multi-engine are waived for the first three nights if purchasing fuel. Other rates apply for helicopters and turbine aircraft. The fee structure is listed on the airport website at www.springervilleair.com. The airport offers a courtesy car to visiting pilots for local use, so transportation to and from town is not typically a problem. If you feel like stretching out a bit and taking a walk, the town is just a little over a mile to the east.
There are several great restaurants to choose from. Booga Reds Restaurant and Cantina offers a decidedly Southwestern menu with a mix of classic café food. Avery’s serves award-winning classic American barbeque. There are also a handful of Chinese restaurants, all within the town limits. There are also a handful of hotels if you are planning to stay the night; Best Western and Reed’s Lodge are the best rated on TripAdvisor.com.
In addition to the dramatic views of the White Mountains, Springerville is home to several historic and scenic attractions. Highest on the list is the Casa Malpais Archaeological Park. Settled somewhere around 1200 - 1300 AD and occupied for between 100-200 years, the settlement by the Mogollon people is fairly well preserved. Distinctive ruins, artifacts, and stunning rock formations are in plain view during the guided tours provided by the Hopi and Zuni elders of the area. Tours are offered several times daily, Tuesday through Saturday, from March through November.
The Springerville Heritage Center offers a unique glimpse into the rich history of the area. Housed in an 1880’s era schoolhouse, this trio of museums and an art gallery truly capture life in this rugged volcanic area. The Casa Malpais museum is housed here and contains many well-preserved artifacts discovered in the digs. The Renee Cushman Museum and the Becker Family History Museum are also housed here and contain many local artifacts depicting early life in this rugged area. Each of the museums are in the schoolhouse and joined by an art gallery featuring the work of the talented local artists. Ranking a 5 of 5 on Trip Advisor, the museum alone would be worth the flight. Expect to spend a couple of hours touring this attraction.
The Little Bear Archaeological Site is just outside of town, hidden in a small cabin community. Several petroglyphs are in the area, and the site is an active dig. Nothing has been reconstructed, and it is not a museum. It is a work in progress and offers a rare glimpse into active archaeology.
Though the White Mountains are home to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and all of the outdoor activities the forest can offer, ground transportation is limited in Springerville. With only about 2000 residents, there are no local car rental companies offering service in the area. Uber/Lyft were not able to provide service at the time of this writing, though drivers do join the networks often. Enterprise in Show Low can arrange for a rental vehicle to be delivered to the airport in advance, if desired.
Springerville is a small town with a rich history on display. The town makes for a great weekend getaway or even a long day trip. With a friendly and welcoming airport to a small town offering attractions and sights often reserved for larger towns, plan to arrive early and stay late to take it all in.