Remember the Magic Number
Story and photos by William White
The first thing you must do when flying to Jackpot, Nevada is remember the number 2341, dont forget it. Next, get ready for a good time and a great value, because Jackpot has a lot more to offer than just a shot at hitting the jackpot.
Unlike most towns in Nevada that owe their beginning to mining or ranching activities, Jackpot came to be as a result of Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauvers campaign to outlaw gambling nationwide. The resulting legislation led to the outlawing of slot machines in Idaho in 1953. In 1954, a Boise entrepreneur opened a gaming parlor just south of the Idaho-Nevada state line. The venture was an immediate success with more than 600 cars a day crossing the border in 1954. As with most good ideas, others noticed his success and followed suit. Even though explosive growth continued in the newly formed township, Jackpot did not appear on maps until the 1970s. Today, the still-unincorporated township is a full-blown resort area with more and better services than most other towns its size.
For years, the only reason to go to Jackpot was to gamble. That is changing as the little town has evolved into a full-service resort. Although the four casinos in Jackpot dominate the commercial property, there is more to do than just play the tables and slots. For instance, the town hosts several fly-ins, such as the 4th of July fly-in for Long-eze and Vari-eze pilots, which may nearly fill the ramp space. On the 4th one of the largest fireworks displays in the area lights up the sky over the little white planes for two hours. National swim meets are held in Jackpots Recreation Center pool. Many rooms are filled by those who attend the moto-cross meets. The town continues to promote conventions, and is planning a first-class shooting range. Finally, if nothing else, Jackpot is still a great $100 burger stop.
Located near the Utah-Nevada state line just south of Idaho, Jackpot is a unique stop. Jackpot is truly a long way from anywhere, but getting there is half the fun. From the south, the route to Jackpot will take you over part of the colorful Great Salt Lake or the Basin and Range topography of Nevada. Approaching from the north, the contrast between the volcanic deserts and green fields of southern Idaho will make the flight visually worthwhile. City of Rocks, a landmark on the California Trail (N 42º 01.10 W 113º 41.63) will pass under your wings if you approach from the east. Nestled between the knolls east of City of Rocks are the remains of an old stage coach station (N 42º 01.80 W 113º 48.75). Many of the visible ruts were made by the wagons of people headed for California during the gold rush of 1849. As you approach from any direction, look for dots on the ground arranged in clusters that can cover several acres. These are anthills. The Mountain Men of the old west used the tiny insects as dry cleaners. They would spread their garments over the mounds and the ants would eat the lice and nits. Prospectors also use the anthills, knowing that tiny pieces of minerals are carried to the surface by the ants. A quick look in an anthill could save the prospector hours of digging.
From any direction, Jackpots runway (06U) is clearly visible on the eastern edge of this small town. The 6600-foot runway 15-33 is well maintained, and has a significant slope to the south. If wind conditions permit, landing to the north will be more efficient since you can taxi to the ramp without a back-taxi. There is a windsock at each end of the runway, and it is common for each one to be indicating a different wind direction. There is a ridge a mile to the south of the airport that can cause some bumps on final, and for those departing to the south, can be a deadly reminder of the effects of density altitude. Once on the ramp, tie downs are plentiful and well maintained. The chains are removed in the winter to aid snow removal. If your plane is thirsty, you do not have to worry about being gouged on price as a transient. Fuel here has been $.45 to $.55 a gallon less expensive than at my home field. The RV park office next to the airport handles the fuel sales. With hundreds of watchful eyes in the RV park next to the tie down area, this is a relatively safe place to park your plane.
There are no rental cars in Jackpot -- there is no need. If you want to explore the surrounding countryside, plan to land at Twin Falls, Idaho, rent a car and drive the short 45 miles to Jackpot. Enterprise Car Rental has been very helpful in the past and has offered weekend rates of $19.99 a day with unlimited mileage. Several of the other brand-name car rental agencies are located at the Twin Falls Airport.
Since Jackpot is a long way from anywhere, you will be relieved that you remembered the number 2341 it is the combination to the pilots lounge and restrooms. A courtesy phone on the wall will connect you to Cactus Petes or Bartons Club 93, the two major casinos in town, for a courtesy van. These vans will take you anywhere you want to go in town. If your legs need a stretch, and they probably will, anywhere in town, including the golf course, is little more than a quarter of a mile from the airport.
From the airport ramp, Cactus Petes 10-story tower dominates Jackpots skyline. The AAA Four-Diamond rated Cactus Petes is the largest of Jackpots resort/casinos with 300 rooms ranging in price from $45 to $185 per night, and is probably the most popular (800-821-1103). In addition to the regular shows featuring performers like Phyllis Diller and Chubby Checker, Cactus Petes is now offering outdoor summer concerts with entertainers like Diamond Rio. These concerts were so successful last summer that they are considering making them a regularly scheduled event. The casino is often crowded, and is typical of what we have come to expect of casinos. Cactus Petes Olympic-size swimming pool, lighted tennis courts, dinner shows, and a variety of restaurants provide alternatives to the tables and slots.
The Horseshu Casino across the street from Cactus Petes is owned by the same holding company that owns Petes. The AAA Three-Diamond rated Horseshu (yes, Horseshu is the correct spelling) has a more relaxed atmosphere and some really friendly staff members. With a nice pool and hot tub, and room prices range from $29 to $85 per night, the Horseshu is a great value (800-432-0051). Every time I have stayed here, the rooms have been clean, well decorated, and comfortable. There is a small grocery and liquor store attached to the casino. If you want to kick up your heels, the Horseshu has the only dance floor in town.
The Four Jacks Hotel and Casino is the most economical casino in Jackpot. Rooms start at $19.95 per night, and special packages are available for seniors (800-251-6313). For a nice relaxed place to try your luck, The Four Jacks cant be beat. Dont forget to try out your newly memorized magic number when trying your hand at roulette or craps tables.
The Covered Wagon Motel is strictly a motel, but is nestled among the casinos so all are only minutes away. The most inexpensive rooms can be found here, $17.95 Sunday through Thursday. Fridays and Saturday's prices depend on the occupancy elsewhere in Jackpot (775-755-2241). The motel features easy access to rooms, as well as K-9 rooming.
Bartons Club 93 (named for US Highway 93 that runs through Jackpot) is touted as the friendliest hotel/casino in Nevada. This may very well be true. While the casino is not as large as the one at Cactus Petes, the atmosphere is totally different. Better lighting and ventilation create a more wholesome feeling at Club 93s casino. Room prices range from $37 per night and up (800-258-2937). The weekend breakfast buffet at the 93 is what has drawn me to Jackpot several times a year. The full buffet is only $4.93 a price pilots can use to justify the cost of the flight. More than the price, the quality of the food is the real draw. All the pastries are fresh-baked from scratch on site. The presentation is nothing short of a work of art. If you get there too late for the breakfast buffet, the afternoon version features the same quality and is only $9.93. The 93s Pair-a-Dice buffets are offered only on Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays. On my last trip, I indulged in a mountain of scrambled eggs, homemade biscuits and gravy, chorizo, a couple of pancakes, a waffle, a sweet roll and a plate of fruit. It took several hours at the slot machines before I could muster the energy for the walk back to the plane. Thankfully, I remembered the magic number after my pre-flight.
As you fly into Jackpot, you will notice the patch of green on the northeast corner of town adjacent to the airport. This is the 18-hole Jackpot Golf Club course. During the summer season, reservations for T-times are a must. With green fees of $15, it is no wonder it is heavily used. It is less than a 15-minute walk from the airport, or you can call a shuttle for a ride to the door. The course is open from March 1 to November 1, weather permitting. Golf carts are required on weekends and will add $10 to the cost. A golf pro is on site for last minute tips. For more information about the golfing opportunities, contact the pro at 775-755-2260 or email@example.com.
Kids dont golf? No problem. The Jackpot Community Recreation Center features an Olympic-size pool staffed by trained professionals. The center is next door to the airport, across an athletic field. Drop the kids at the pool, play some golf or hit the tables, and then join them for a refreshing swim before dinner. It is possible to spend a whole weekend in Jackpot and never visit a casino except to access a restaurant.
At this time, on-field camping at the airport is specifically prohibited. That may be changing in the future as those in power realize the value of offering camping under the wing. If you want to camp, the Spanish Gardens RV Park has several tent spaces (775-755-2333). It is a short walk south of the airport, or take one of the courtesy shuttles. Check room prices in Jackpot before you load the tent though. With rooms starting at $17.95 midweek, it may well make better cents to have a shower, air conditioning, and clean sheets than to take the tent.
Perhaps the best reason to stop by Jackpot is that it has some of the most genuinely friendly people you will ever meet. I was in Jackpot when the World Trade Center tragedy took place, and subsequently was grounded for several days. The people at the Horseshu and Cactus Petes RV Park bent over backwards to help. One of the maintenance engineers from Cactus Petes gave me a ride into Twin Falls so I could rent a car to return home. Western hospitality at its best!
Whether you are looking for a weekend holiday or just passing by, Jackpot is a great getaway. Since the town is so compact, trip planning is a breeze. No car needed, good food, reasonable prices, entertainment, affordable green fees, great pools and cheap avgas what more could you want? Just dont forget the magic number!
More information on Jackpot can be gathered from their web site www.jackpot-nevada.org, or from Jackpot Tourism 775-755-2229. Airport information is available at 775-755-2447 and at www.airnav.com.
William White is a 1200 hr private pilot who has written several popular pilot guidebooks. The Santa Fe Trail by Air and The Oregon, California and Mormon Trails by Air are available from Western Airtrails at 888-755-0330 and at www.westernairtrails.com.
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