Here’s Where These 50-Foot Arrows All Over America Actually Lead To

Published November 30, 2018

If you’ve taken a trip across America, you might have noticed those strange, gigantic concrete arrows on the ground. Rest assured, these are not some sort of alien compass or even relics of an ancient civilization. There’s a much more reasonable explanation.

These are what’s left behind from the forgotten age of US mail delivery. As a culture, we’ve become so reliant on our digital companions—smartphones with compasses and detailed GPS—that it’s easy to forget that the world actually did run on analog technology.

The US postal service began using cross-country flight delivery well before there was reliable radio communication, so the Federal Government installed these 70-foot concrete arrows in 1924. These were supposed to be visible to lost pilots every ten miles or so along established air routes to help them find their way. Painted bright yellow, they were visible by night, the most efficient time to fly.

Each arrow was built alongside a 50 foot tall tower with a rotating gas-powered light and a little rest shelter for the folks who made it their jobs to maintain those towers. They were landlocked lighthouses, to a degree.

By WWII, these beacons were rendered obsolete as radio communication advanced. The metal towers were disassembled and the scrap metal used for the war effort. As for the concrete arrows—some have escaped development and are still around. You just have to look. If you’re keen for a treasure hunt for the past, try Google Maps for a start.