The Flying B (named for its owner, Bob Burlingame, of California aircraft-industry fame) occupies much of a spectacular valley running west from the small town of Kamiah (pronounced CAM-ee-eye). Lewis and Clark, returning east in 1806, trekked down and camped in this valley as they approached the Bitterroot Mountains.
Visitors to the Flying B can fly into Lewiston and drive south (about a 90 minute trip) or, if they're feeling adventurous, drive over the Bitterroots on Highway 12 from Missoula, Montana, following the wild Lochsa River. It's about a four-hour drive, and you have to pay attention to the weather, but like driving the Alaska Highway, everyone should do it once.
The Flying B's valley is formally known as Lawyer Creek Canyon, and it stretches for miles in a great arc. It is named for a famous Nez Perce chief of the 1800s, who was known for his negotiating skills. The canyon's recorded history, however stretches back thousands of years, with rock paintings by early inhabitants dated seven to ten thousand years ago.
Lawyer Creek Canyon became a central part of the Nez Perce reservation, but the Indians sold off most of their holdings and through the 20th century, it was inhabited by cattle ranchers. As with most such operations, the land was over-grazed with little attention paid to the wildlife. In this part of Idaho, wildlife included deer, elk, moose, mountain lions, and native game birds. After the introduction of chukars to North America, they spread to this part of the country, and now inhabit the high slopes that flank the valley.
In the early 1980s, Bob Burlingame began purchasing land in the valley and gradually amassed a holding of 5,000 acres. With his son, Kevin he implemented land-use programs designed to return Lawyer Creek Canyon to its former state, complete with animals, birds, and fishing. They built a lodge, and the Flying B was born.
Today, the ranch is managed by Joseph Peterson, who began with their elk-hunting operation in the mid-90s. As well as their own land in Lawyer Creek Canyon, the Flying B has big-game hunting rights on another 740,000 acres of wilderness in the Selway-Bitterroot region of Idaho.
From then on, I expected all such operations to be like the Flying B. Alas, they aren't…
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