Arrows across Idaho

Navigating through History

Story and photos by Ross V. Walker

I’ve been camping with the same two friends, Bruce Gregory and Stephen Johnson, for thirty-five years in a row, and now that they are in California and I am in Idaho, we keep in touch daily by email. We are all interested in American history, and a few years ago one of them sent me an article he had found about mysterious giant arrows.

Since then, we all have been looking for them, and I have photographed nine, including three in Idaho.

You might come across one of these giant, concrete arrows in a field, or a ghost town, or maybe at a rural Idaho airport. Or spot one on Google Earth. They’re scattered across the country, but most of them are found here in the West. Why were they made?

Imagine what it must have been like to be one of the first airmail pilots, crossing Idaho in a primitive Swallow biplane owned by Varney Air Lines of Boise. Walter Varney had the contract to fly the airmail route between Pasco, Washington, and Elko, Nevada, with a stop in Boise. The route started in 1926 and was called CAM-5 (Contract Air Mail Route 5). In those days, planes had no radar or other electronic navigation aids, so pilots were pretty much on their own to figure out their routes using landmarks.

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