Planning for The Lost Prairie Boogie

How to Meet the Big Sky Over Big Sky Country

Montana (wingsuit) rodeo
Montana is cowboy country, so bring your best rodeo game to Lost Prairie. Image Courtesy Brian Buckland, http://gallery.brianbuckland.com/

Lost Prairie: an evocative name for a place, no?

It conjures up images of circled wagons; of laughing steeplechases through the wild west; of Andrew Wyeth and wildflowers.

Outside of the first half of August, Montana’s Lost Prairie Valley is much truer to that wide-open name. It’s a massive meadow, unfurling for a hundred acres in the middle of nowhere. In the winter, it’s utterly deserted. But for ten sun-soaked days, the Lost Prairie is found -- and it becomes a full-on summer camp for skydivers. Then, the Lost Prairie Boogie fills the sky, as it has for nearly fifty summers running.

The current venue for one of the world’s longest-running skydiving meetups is Carson Field, the private airstrip home of Meadow Peak Skydiving. Carson Field was designed for skydiving, and boogiers don’t have to queue up for the dropzone’s home-team Cessna: Skydive Arizona provides turbine aircraft for the event, as well as coaching and organizing from the legendary talents of Arizona Airspeed and Arizona Arsenal.

It’s not all about that big sky, either. The camp sits close enough to Glacier National Park to invite day trips up into the glacial wilderness. When it’s hot, carfuls of revelers head over to soak up the sun at neighboring McGregor Lake (and give their inflatable orcas a break from the rigors of freefall).

Thursday night, campers pile into caravans and drive a couple of hours down a logging road to a fire watchtower. There, blankets are snuggled in, beers are opened and fingers are crossed that the conditions are right for a flyby.

There are bonfires, boys-vs.-girls singing contests -- even a formal dinner. This boogie is absolutely unique in skydiving, but it requires some planning to get it right. I talked to Sean “Monkey” Horton, who has been attending the event for a decade, to get the beta.

1. Get ready for a road trip.

If you’re coming to Lost Prairie (and you’re not rocking up under your own wings), you’re going to be driving. The boogie’s middle-of-nowhere address is part of the appeal, after all.

Lots of folks choose to RV it, and for good reason. “Unless you're self-contained, you have to bring everything,” says Horton. “It's a bit like Burning Man in that way.”

If you’re driving all the way in, your last supply stop will be in one of two places: Kalispell to the east, or Libby (a much smaller town) if you're coming from the west. Chain retail stores have recently popped up in Kalispell, but Libby is a hamlet. As of publication, the latter has one well-stocked grocery store, Rosauers. "We usually pick up our major supplies either in Spokane or at the Costco in Coeur d'Alene," Horton says, "And go to the Rosauers for the final items that we don't want to keep cold all the way from the bigger city."

If you're flying commercially, book your ticket to either Kalispell or Spokane, Washington. From Spokane, you can expect to drive about 3.5 hours to Lost Prairie; from Kalispell, around an hour. The difference in drive time is balanced by a significant offset in price, as plane tickets to (and car rentals in) Spokane are significantly cheaper than in Kalispell.

Lost Prairie might be in the boonies, but – luckily – the road is not going to eat your ride. Though the way in always seems to be under construction, there’s no four-wheel drive required, ancient RVs are gonna make it, and iron-seat motorcyclists will do just fine.

There’s only one rough bit to be aware of, and it’s right at the end. Once you’re off the main highway, the 5-mile stretch to camp is a combination of paved and dirt roads. It rumbles along on the washboard side -- and it’s dusty -- but it’s completely passable.

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Image Courtesy Brian Buckland, http://gallery.brianbuckland.com/

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O'Neil, Annette. "Planning for The Lost Prairie Boogie." ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/planning-for-the-lost-prairie-boogie-1240510. O'Neil, Annette. (2017, March 7). Planning for The Lost Prairie Boogie. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/planning-for-the-lost-prairie-boogie-1240510 O'Neil, Annette. "Planning for The Lost Prairie Boogie." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/planning-for-the-lost-prairie-boogie-1240510 (accessed November 21, 2017).