The Flying H Ranch is nestled in Cottonwood Idaho along the majestic Snake and Salmon Rivers and spans for an impressive 40,000 acres where its roots trace back to former owners, David and Sarah Van Pool. The Flying H Ranch, previously known as the Van Pool Ranch, dates back to 1911 when the ranch was first settled. Improved upon for the next eight years, David met requirements for the original land grant and began acquiring more homestead properties. His hard work paid off as he gained capitol and eventually bought out local neighbors until his retirement in 1934. One of David’s most notable transactions was in his acquisition and consolidations of the Quarter Circle V Ranch as this led to the formation of one of the largest ranches in northern Idaho.
The ranch then transferred operations to the next generation in Harold Van Pool and his wife Alta. Harold was able to bring his skilled trades to significantly improve the ranch as he was both a skilled blacksmith and self-educated veterinarian. He learned these skills while working as a horse packer for the U.S. forest service where he packed supplies to stations in the mountains behind Avery and St. Maries. His wife Alta attended the University of Idaho, Moscow, earning degrees in science and physical education. As a student, Mrs. Van Pool was an active participant in many types of sports and was captain of the University’s girls rifle team. Alta even managed to receive an expert marksman award from a representative of Gen. John J. Pershing.
During the summer months, Harold and Alta could be found living at Spring Creek on Joseph Plains. In the winter, they chose to live on the river near Dry Creek landing. The Van Pool’s ran their final cattle drive in 1968; Alta at the age of 62 and Harold at age 67. The two managed the ranch for 43 years before selling it to White Swan Lumber in 1969. The Van Pool’s willingness to aid others in the remote area of the now, Flying H Ranch, did not go unnoticed as their heroism was later published in Len Jordan’s book “Life Below Hells Canyon.”
The ranch as it is today totaling approximately 40,000 acres and spans roughly 3900 ft. of elevation change from 900 ft at the river bottom to 4800 ft at the peak of the ranch. While the ranch holds the fewest head of cattle of the Wilks Ranches, totaling 600 cow-calf pairs, it produces some healthy strong calves on the nutrient rich Joseph Plains / Snake river wild grasses.
Still today the ranch rotates with the seasons, spending winters in the lower house on the Snake River where snow levels aren’t quite as drastic and then in the summer, moving to the top house where the wildflowers bloom and the majority of the summer heat settles below you. The vastness of this ranch spans from the banks of the Snake River at the base of the ranch to Joseph Plains at the highest elevation of the ranch. Standing at the top and looking down the mountainside, the mighty Snake River appears as just a creek due to the sheer elevation change of this humbling landscape; the kind of place that you have to experience in person to appreciate its enormity. The breathtaking beauty is matched by no other, almost a paradise, and every room is a room with a view. The remote and unique Idaho ranch can bring challenges that toughens a man and a true beauty that softens even the roughest spirits. Whether it’s high snow elevations in the winter or the first sight of the wildflowers in the spring the Flying H Ranch holds beauty, history and a western heritage that will continue to grow through generations while producing top notch quality commercial cattle, managed today by Dan and Jeanie VonBargen.