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Mysterious arrows protect aviators

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Oct. 13, 2013 at 11:16 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Internet has been buzzing in recent weeks with chatter about a mysterious series of giant arrows.

They trace a sort of dotted line across northern Utah and several other states. One giant arrow is in Bountiful, near the marshes of the Great Salt Lake. Another was found on a bluff above Interstate 80, on Kennecott property near Saltair.

The best preserved arrow is just off I-80 near Skull Valley. Another is decaying and overgrown south of Tooele near Stockton.

Aviation and space buff Patrick Wiggins first heard about the arrows a few weeks ago.

"You can see the point of the arrow, of course, if you take the time to look," Wiggins said.

People have been taking wild guesses on the internet about the true purpose or meaning of the arrows. Some speculations include aliens or hidden treasures.

To find the answer of what the arrows are pointing at, you have to go a long way back to the earliest days of aviation when the lives of airmail pilots depended on these arrows to get them to their destination.

Airmail pilots often flew in terrible weather, in the dark, and often lost their way.

"Back then there was no radio navigation, so they had to use visual markers, usually mountains, buildings that they could easily find from the air," said Capt. Kyle Coffman of the Civil Air Patrol. "So these arrows were great markers."

That's why in the 1920's a dotted line on the map connecting the East coast to the West coast became a sequence of concrete arrows on the ground, with lighted beacons on each one; guideposts for a Pony Express Trail in the sky.

It still took plenty of guts; airmail pilots had to fly low to see the arrows, particularly in bad weather.

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"Knowing that, as low as you are, if you miss one you're going to run into a mountain," Wiggins said. "And so I wouldn't have had the nerve to do that."

Wiggins persuaded a squadron of Civil Air Patrol cadets to adopt the Skull Valley arrow, cleaning it up to make it presentable.

"To me what's so exciting is here we have this relic of the very early days of aviation, sitting out here in the desert, very well preserved," said history buff Joe Bauman. "And it's like going back in time 80 years."

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John Hollenhorst

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