SHERIDAN — The number of recreation rentals available in the Bighorn National Forest is set to double by the summer of 2024, with an additional five rentals becoming available.
The facilities soon available include four buildings in the Tongue Ranger District including two at Big Goose, one at Penrose and one at Woodrock, U.S. Forest Service Bighorn National Forest Public Affairs Officer Sara Kirol said. The River Cabin at Tyrrell in the Powder River Ranger District will also be made available for rental and converted into a facility compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The new facilities join three existing rentals in the Powder River Ranger District including the Sheep Mountain Fire Outlook, the Pole Creek Cabin and the Muddy Guard Cabin.
Bighorn National Forest Resource Staff Officer Cordell Perkins said the BNF’s rentals are perpetually in high demand, and it will be good to have more options available soon.
“With the facilities we have now, you have to be online six months out at midnight to even have a chance of renting one,” Perkins said during an April 28 meeting of the Bighorn National Forest Steering Committee.
Bighorn National Forest Supervisor Andrew Johnson said he was excited about the new rentals and about finding new ways to utilize some of the forest’s unused facilities.
“I, only half-joking, say we have more buildings than employees,” Johnson said during the steering committee meeting. “And it’s true… We have ranger stations and compounds all across the forest that we don’t use all of, like at Tyrrell, or no longer use at all, like at Big Goose. But a lot of those are just fantastic facilities in really cool locations. They were built there for a reason…so the ability to tune them up, bring them up to code and make them available for the public to rent is really exciting.”
Kirol said the forest’s engineers and recreation staff would visit the sites this summer to assess what improvements are needed before the cabins can be rented out.
“Overall, our engineers say there isn’t a lot of work needed for most of the cabins,” Kirol said. “The exceptions are the River Cabin, which needs major work, and Penrose, which needs a new toilet. Most of the work needed is basic maintenance, such as painting and some minor repairs.”
The longest process will be working through the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act process to add the cabins to the rental system and charge a fee, Kirol said. That work will begin this summer, as will some basic maintenance. The summer of 2023 will bring larger-scale maintenance projects at Tyrrell and Penrose with the goal of all rentals becoming available in the summer of 2024.
All monies raised from forest service cabin rentals return to the forest, Johnson said, which will allow forest staff to make even more facilities available in the future.
“We’ll get these cabins online and start to generate a revenue source that will not only maintain those, but generate funds we can invest into other cabins in the forest,” Johnson said. “As we determine they are surplus to our needs, we can make them available to the public as rentals.”
Once the rentals are made available, they can be reserved at recreation.gov under “Bighorn National Forest.” The forest’s existing cabins can be reserved online or by calling 877-444-6777.