Scattered across the United States are a network of mysterious concrete arrows. They are often found in remote locations or areas difficult to access. Some will be accompanied by a small shack, a few have a metal tower affixed to their base. Many are in good condition while others have succumbed to nature. The shape and direction of the arrows vary, but it is clear they served the same purpose.

The purpose was important: helping early pilots navigate U.S. transcontinental flights at night.

In a era before radar, pilots used ground-based landmarks for guidance. This solution worked for flight during the day, but grounded pilots at night. Before long, a system of beacons was established across the United States to guide airmail pilots around-the-clock. When radar and radio communications made the beacons obsolete years later, most were torn down or abandoned.


Early Airmail Beacon Route Map circa 1924. (does not include later spur routes)



In the mid-19th century the Wild West was largely unexplored. There was no infrastructure and very little law governing the land. Understandably, coast-to-coast message delivery was nonexistent. It was not until a gold discovery in 1848 that California became the destination for tens of thousands from the east. The trip across the country was arduous, dangerous, and could take anywhere from three to six weeks.

Airmail beacon in Omaha, Nebraska (circa 1920s)

By 1860, the Pony Express revolutionized transcontinental mail by offering delivery in about ten days. Nearly unheard-of at the time, this was faster than the more volatile southern route favored by others.

Knowledgeable frontiersmen would race across the country on horseback, covering vast distances in shorter times. While the Pony Express was significant in that it proved the northern/central mail route was possible, it was inefficient compared to stagecoach lines. Higher costs and poor economies of scale would see the Pony Express fail to win the mail contract beyond its first year of operation.

A year later, the threat of civil war descended upon the country and resources were diverted to the conflict. When the transcontinental telegraph line was completed in 1861, it immediately rendered the Pony Express obsolete.

In the late 19th century, reliability of mail delivery improved – but not its speed. It was not until the invention of the airplane that intercontinental mail delivery witnessed its next major breakthrough.

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)


Early Aviation & Airmail

airmail vintage advertisement
vintage airmail advertisement

The Wright brothers made the first flight in 1903, and it wasn’t long before pilots adopted air transport for mail delivery.

By 1911, Fred Wiseman had conducted an unofficial airmail flight carrying three letters from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, California.

The next day, a large exhibition orchestrated by Sir Walter George Windham in British India made the first official airmail flight. Windham used the event to generate publicity and raise money for charity. His pilot, Henri Pequet, would fly just over 8 miles from Allahabad to Naini to deliver 6,500 letters.

It wasn’t until three years later the range capability of mail delivery aircraft was really tested. In July of 1914, French pilot Maurice Guillaux carried Australian mail 584 miles from Melbourne to Sydney – at the time the longest such flight in the world.

By 1918 the east coast of the United States had limited airmail service. Two years later, a North American transcontinental airmail route was finally established. On August 20th, 1920 – sixty years after the Pony Express – rapid delivery made a return to the U.S.


Beacon Tower System

airmail beacon system tower design
Airmail beacon tower design

Aircraft of the era lacked the advanced electronics for navigation during night flights or through inclement weather. Long before the advent of radio guidance or Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), pilots were limited to visual guidance, using landmarks to chart the route.

Flying at night was out of the question; bad weather and limited flight times meant delivery was limited and still spotty in frequency. The service was indeed faster, but it lacked flexibility and reliability of operations.

By 1924 the Postal Service developed a solution that was effective, if not elegant. system of ground-based navigation beacons extending from New York to San Francisco would help pilots fly across the country at night and ultimately be the world’s first such system.

The early iterations of the system used approximately 1,500 airmail beacons, each constructed roughly between 3 and 5 miles apart. The beacons featured a 50-foot tower with rotating lights placed on top of concrete foundations in the shape of giant arrows measuring between 50 and 70 feet long. To increase visibility of the concrete arrows, they were painted bright yellow.

The first towers contained acetylene-gas powered lights which were fed by fuel stored in a shed at the base. At the top of the towers, a rotating beacon with 5,000 candlepower and would flash every ten seconds. clear weather the beacon lights could be seen for 10 miles (16 km). Below the main white beacon, a secondary set of red and green lights would flash a Morse Code letter to identify the beacon to pilots.

To accommodate for emergencies, intermediate landing fields were established every 25 miles along the route. The fields were constructed with rotating incandescent electric lights mounted on 50-foot towers set to sweep six times per minute. These less-common emergency field beacons were visible up to 75 miles away.

The program was an immediate success and continued to expand throughout its operational life. By the end of the first year the airmail service had 18 terminal airfields, 89 emergency airfields, and more than 500 beacon lights in operation.

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)


Rapid Growth Until Obsolete 1926 management of the beacon system was turned over to the Department of Commerce, which continued expansion or the airmail beacon system until 1929.

As technology improved, so did the towers. Later versions on spur routes were built 10 miles apart and equipped with stronger beacon lights – up to one million candlepower – making them reportedly visible up to 40 miles in clear weather.

But by the 1930s, navigation and radio technology had improved to allow flight without land-based visual guidance. The Low Frequency Radio Range (LFRR) system began to replace older visual-based systems. The airmail beacon program would continue to operate full-scale until 1933, when technology advancements and the higher cost of operation during the Great Depression – finally rendered it obsolete.

After the program was de-funded, various beacons would continue to operate in limited capacities into the 1940s. At that time, the Department of Commerce decommissioned and disassembled the towers for their steel, a resource in short supply and desperately needed to support the war effort.

The last airway beacon was officially shut down in 1973, although the Montana Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division reportedly continues to operate around 19 updated beacons in the mountains of Western Montana.

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)



Ninety years later, most of the towers have been dismantled. Many of the sites are long gone, victims of war, infrastructure growth, and aggressive private developers. During World War II, numerous concrete arrows were destroyed as well – so as to not help enemy pilots visually navigate the country.

Still, hundreds of the arrows remain. But today they lack the bright yellow paint, and the cracks in the concrete worsen with each winter freeze. Arrows on top of mountains are safe for now, but several along the highways have already been lost to redevelopment.

airmail beacon system concrete arrow
airmail beacon system concrete arrow



For the explorers out there, Sometimes Interesting has compiled a list with map links to locations with visible remains from the original airmail beacon system. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but it does include many of the locations still visible today. (List is continually updated as submissions are received):

[ Listed alphabetically by state: number of locations identified ]


Arizona: 1

West of Phoenix, Arizona, the remains of beacon #33 of the Los Angeles-Phoenix Airway are crumbling. The concrete arrow is no longer visible, but the radio tower remains – albeit in poor condition. S-I reader C. Alexander Leigh visited the beacon and shared his Flickr photo set which contains an excellent collection of images of the collapsing tower. (photo below courtesy C. Alexander Leigh)

Beacon #33 of the LA-PHX airmail route
Beacon #33 of the LA-PHX route (courtesy C. Alexander Leigh)

California: 7• S-I Reader Art Wilson tells us of the beacon tower at the airport in Blythe, California, which used to be at an emergency landing strip in Goffs, California, west of Needles (pictured at right, courtesy Art Wilson). Art elaborates: “When the Goffs strip was dismantled in 1936, the beacon was moved to Blythe, but at a different location from the current site.”  Recently some $6,000 was spent on its renovation.

• The concrete arrow of the former MX1095 Beacon can be seen just east of the airport in Montague, California.

• The remains of a beacon power shed are keeping a concrete arrow company tucked away in the hills off I-15 in San Bernardino County, California not far from Halloran Summit. (photos above courtesy S-I readers Paula and Travis Cottrill. Beacon number unknown)

• Beacon 14A is still overlooking US-80 in the Tahoe National Forest in California. The concrete arrow is gone, but the tower remains. A newer building has replaced the generator shed next to the tower.

• Little other than the tower’s foundation of Beacon 5 is still visible in Vacaville, California.

• A two-arrow, two-tail beacon is vandalized, but visible in Walnut Creek, California. (courtesy S-I reader Bob Simmons, beacon number unknown)

• North of Weed, California the remains of a concrete arrow are on private property, but still visible. (courtesy S-I reader Corey Scysen, beacon number unknown)

Connecticut: 1

• The remains of a concrete arrow have recently been discovered and are undergoing restoration at Bethany Airport, CT (pictured below, Courtesy S-I reader Mark Scott). Thanks to Ray Hawkins, we know the Bethany arrow “Bethany CAA 9 – 2000×1375 – irregular shaped; 1.25 miles north of town and 9 miles north of New Haven; In the 1927 Airway Bulletin No. 78, listed as CAA site 9, and as an irregular shape and supported the New York to Boston airway.

Bethany, CT airmail beacon
Arrow at Bethany Airport, CT (photo courtesy Mark Scott)

Ray offered the airfields database site as a suggestion for additional resources, as well as this excellent write-up about Bethany Airport for further reading.

Georgia: 1

• The last surviving airway beacon in Georgia is five miles east of Cartersville, Georgia, the remains of the Atlanta-Nashville route’s Beacon #3 concrete arrow have been preserved and were dedicated in a ceremony on October 7th, 2016.  The arrow is not publicly accessible nor is it visible from Satellite view, hidden under a canopy of trees in the Waterside Estates gated community just off Arrow Mountain Drive. (Beacon #3 of the Atlanta-Nashville Airway, courtesy S-I reader Nancy Reeves &  Michael Suter)

Idaho: 4
Beacon 27 (courtesy Glen Smallwood)

• There are a host of arrows which have been discovered around Boise, Idaho. A concrete arrow just off Interstate 84 about 25 miles SE of town is all that remains of Beacon 27. (photo at right and below).

S-I reader Glen Smallwood told us about three other beacons SE of Boise: Beacon 26 is near Mountain Home municipal airport, while the tower is all that’s left from Beacon OZ1042 at the entrance to the airport. On the SE side of Boise is Beacon 29.

concrete arrows beacon 27 Idaho
Beacon 27 in Idaho (photo courtesy Mike Berriochoa)

Dubois-ID-airway-beacon• A complete beacon is intact and visible in Dubois, Idaho. This location sits near a 4,750 foot gravel runway which is open to the public. This beacon still has its tower and accompanying power shack, although the equipment inside is long gone. (Beacon number unknown, ID & photo at right courtesy from S-I reader Jerry Muller.)

• A complete beacon shack and tower are still standing in Malad City, Idaho. The concrete arrow is no longer visible, perhaps paved over, but the shack is sealed and appears to still be in use.

Malad-City-ID-airway-beaconThis beacon is located on an open public airport. (Beacon number unknown, ID & photo at right courtesy from S-I reader Jerry Muller).

• The concrete arrow by Strevell Road near the Idaho/Utah border is clearly visible along with the foundations of other facilities, now gone (beacon number unknown).

Illinois: 1

airmail-beacon-arrow-steward-illinois-150px• The faint outline of a concrete arrow is hidden in some corn fields just off German Road in Steward, Illinois. NOTE: The arrow isn’t visible unless the corn has been recently harvested (courtesy S-I reader Jeremy Nesemeier, Omaha-Chicago Airway, beacon number 31 or 33. photo at right courtesy Tom Murray).

Indiana: 4

• Between Moscow and Milroy the remains of a concrete arrow are still in good condition, about 15 miles east of Shelbyville in Indiana (part of Cincinnati-Indianapolis Airway, beacon number unknown, courtesy S-I reader Marvin Runge).

• A concrete arrow from beacon sits in good condition at Shelbyville Municipal Airport (KGEZ), about 25 miles southeast of Indianapolis in Indiana (part of Cincinnati-Indianapolis Airway, beacon number unknown).

Underwood Indiana airway beacon tower• About six miles east of Shelbyville on E 100 N, the remains of a concrete arrow are visible on Google Streetview (part of Cincinnati-Indianapolis Airway, beacon number unknown, courtesy S-I reader Marvin Runge).

• Just west of Underwood, Indiana, the remains of a beacon are well-hidden deep in the forest. Only the tower remains, and it is mostly hidden by the trees  (part of Indianapolis-Louisville airway, beacon number unknown, photo at right courtesy S-I reader John Barthold).

Kansas: 1• Just outside of Anthony, Kansas the remains of a concrete arrow and a beacon tower are visible near the entrance to the municipal airport (beacon number unknown, identification & photo at right courtesy S-I reader Becky McClintock).

Minnesota: 2

• The concrete arrow of Beacon 33 is still visible in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. It is even visible in street view.

• A restored tower is on display in Indian Mounds Park of St. Paul, Minnesota. This 1929 example has recently been re-painted to its original black & yellow livery. (courtesy S-I reader Gerald Kackman, detailed information about this beacon can be found here)

Missouri: 1

• Near Hickory, Missouri, the remains of Amber Airway 4, Beacon 7’s tower can be seen in the Nodaway Valley Conservation Area.

• In Tarkio, Missouri, the tower from a former beacon sits in the front yard of Congressman Sam Graves, just off State Highway O (the tower is visible in Google Streetview, courtesy Sam Graves). 

Nevada: 10

• The faint outline of a concrete arrow and generator shack is still visible in Buffalo Valley, Nevada (beacon number unknown), near Battle Mountain. Of note at this particular site is the former emergency airfield in the shape of a giant triangle.

Buffalo Valley NVThanks to S-I reader Mike Herberth, we know that the airfield’s tower is now gone, but just south of the arrow the foundation and some metal work from the beacon tower remain. Runways of the emergency airfield were marked with concrete curbs and metal cones, some still visible. The airfield itself is visible from Google satellite view (pictured at right), however due to overgrowth it is not as visible on the ground.

• Ten miles west of Mesquite in the desert of Clark County, Nevada, the remains of a concrete arrow are still visible (courtesy S-I reader Steven Belknap, beacon number unknown).

• Just outside of Fernley, Nevada sits a lone beacon tower missing the concrete arrow and generator shed (beacon number unknown).

• A concrete arrow is visible off Old Highway 40 near Golconda, Nevada (beacon number unknown).

• In Humboldt county, Nevada, the remains of an angled concrete arrow sits halfway between the Golconda and Winnemucca beacons (beacon number unknown, courtesy S-I reader Richard Woods).

• In Lovelock, Nevada, another concrete arrow can be seen (beacon number unknown).

• Up on Beacon Hill Road in the Moapa Valley region of Nevada, a concrete arrow is still visible (photos below courtesy Scott Alvar, beacon number unknown).

• There is a right-angle concrete arrow, originally from Beacon 50, still visible in Montello, Nevada.

• Just outside the Toiyabe National Forest in Reno, the remains of an eastward-facing concrete arrow can be seen in the mountains south of town. (courtesy S-I reader Mark Walker, beacon number unknown)

• The well-preserved tower of airway Beacon 32 is still in use at Winnemucca Municipal Airport in northern Nevada. You can even see this pristine example in street view. (No concrete arrow or generator shed)

New Mexico: 6

• A concrete arrow is all that is left of Beacon 68 just west of Albuquerque, New Mexico (pictured below).

airmail beacon 68 New Mexico
Airway Beacon 68 in New Mexico (photo courtesy Justin Rushde)

• The faint remains of a concrete arrow can be seen in the defunct municipal airfield in Columbus, New Mexico (beacon number unknown).

• The generator shed is all that’s left of

Grants Milan NM airmail beacon tower
The Aviation Heritage Museum of the Grants-Milan Airport in NM has restored this airway beacon (picture courtesy

Beacon 61 in the mountains of Grants, New Mexico. The tower and concrete arrow may be gone, but you can still see “61” on the roof of the shed.

• Visit the Aviation Heritage Museum of the Grants-Milan Airport in New Mexico to see Beacon 62 (originally located in Bonita Canyon) restored to its original 1930s appearance, complete with painted tower and corresponding generator shack. (pictured at right).

• Two miles northwest of Seama, New Mexico, the concrete arrow of Beacon 64 sits behind Flower Mountain, not far from Interstate 40.

• Between Trinidad, Colorado and Raton, New Mexico, a complete shack & tower sits in relatively good condition, however there is no concrete arrow. (If anyone has any information behind the absence of an arrow at this location, let us know).

Beacon 45aEl Paso Puebla Airway Beacon 45 (pictured at right). (addition & photo courtesy S-I reader Marc @

Ohio: 1

• The Newark-Heath Airport in Ohio has the well-preserved example in Beacon 2 of the Columbus-Philadelphia route, circa 1933 (courtesy S-I reader Chris Little).

S-I reader and EAA #402 member Barney Kemter is restoring this beacon. He has already restored and painted the arrow (see below). He also has plans to re-paint the generator shed (with “C-P” on the roof) and eventually add a historical marker.

Barney tells us Beacon #2, which dates to 1930, is the last remaining arrow on the CAM #34 (Columbus to Philadelphia) route. Flights started October 25th, 1930, by Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT). Barney also revealed the concrete arrows were placed, not poured.

photos courtesy Barney Kemter

Oregon: 4

Arrow near Wolf Creek, Oregon

• Just above Grants Pass, Oregon, the remains of a concrete arrow are still visible.  A radio tower on site is currently being used by KFMJ-FM (courtesy S-I reader Eric Steinbrenner, beacon number unknown).

• There’s a concrete arrow off a dirt road in Meacham, Oregon (beacon number unknown).

• A restored beacon tower is part of a protected monument in Rocky Butte Natural Area of Portland, Oregon (courtesy S-I reader Scott Kessler, beacon number unknown).

• A modern antenna system has been built on top of an old concrete arrow in Wolf Creek, Oregon. (tip & pictured at right courtesy S-I reader Pat Elliott, beacon number unknown)

South Carolina: 2

• Near Effingham, South Carolina the concrete pad of Beacon J R 28, circa 1935, is reportedly still present albeit overgrown by vegetation (courtesy S-I reader Chris Little).

woodruff-sc-airmail-beacon-14-arrow• Between Reidville and Woodruff, South Carolina, there lies a very visible arrow from Beacon 14, originally of the Atlanta–New York line and circa 1935. The arrow is also clearly visible in Google Street view (courtesy S-I reader Chris Little, picture at right courtesy Melton B.)

Texas: 4

• The concrete arrow and generator shed at Delaware Springs Intermediate Field are still visible, deep in remote Texas. Read more about Delaware Springs Field here.

Concrete arrow barely visible at Hudspeth Intermediate Field

• About 55 miles east of El Paso in the middle of nowhere, Texas, the concrete arrow of Hudspeth Intermediate Field barely pokes out of the brush (pictured above). Hudspeth was constructed in the 1930s by the Department of Commerce for emergency use by airlines, but hasn’t been used in half a century.

• The concrete arrow from Salt Flat Intermediate Field is barely visible in lonely Salt Flat, Texas. This emergency landing field was another product of the Department of Commerce in the 1930s. This page has more detail on the now-defunct Salt Flat Intermediate Field.

• In Schwertner, Texas the remains of a concrete arrow are still visible on some land owned by a relative of one of our readers. (courtesy S-I reader Tommy Madden. Beacon number unknown)

• A concrete arrow is still visible just outside of Sweetwater, Texas, however it is on private land and not accessible. (beacon number known, courtesy S-I reader Thomas Howlett.)

Utah: 8

Beacon 58‘s concrete arrow is still visible just off the westbound side of US-80 and just southwest of the Great Salt Lake(courtesy S-I reader Tim Roumph)

• Also southwest of the Great Salt Lake, the concrete arrow of Beacon 59 sits right off US-80. Like Beacon 58, Beacon 59 is also on the westbound side, and is less than ten miles away.

• The concrete arrow with twin tails from Beacon 61A can be seen just off the Lincoln Highway in Lake Point, Utah. (pictured below, courtesy


• Faint remnants of a concrete arrow in Locomotive Springs, Utah (beacon number unknown).

airmail-beacon-37A-BloomingtonOverlook• Another concrete arrow – this one from Beacon 37B – can be seen on the south edge of the Shinob Kibe Mesa in Utah.

• The concrete arrow from Beacon 37A is visible from the Bloomington Overlook location in St. George, Utah. (pictured at right)

•  A concrete arrow is all that’s left of Beacon 37C at the Quail Creek Reservoir in Utah between Hurricane and St. George. (pictured below)

• In Woods Cross, Utah, there is a concrete arrow northeast of the Salt Lake City Airport (beacon number unknown).

The remains of airmail beacon 37C near the Quail Creek Reservoir in Utah.

Washington: 1

• About 20 miles northeast of Ellensburg, WA, the foundation remains of a Beacon #10 from the Seattle-Spokane route can still be seen (courtesy S-I reader C. Alexander Leigh).

Wyoming: 7

• The remains of a concrete arrow are still visible about a mile north of I-80 near the ghost town of Bryan, Wyoming. (beacon number unknown, courtesy S-I reader Daniel Quinn)

• A shed and tower are still visible at the Johnson County Municipal Airport in Buffalo, Wyoming. (beacon number unknown, courtesy S-I reader Gar Jorgenson)

• In the wilderness outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming, the remote concrete arrow of Beacon 38 sits undisturbed (pictured below, courtesy S-I reader John Breeding).

John shared his encounter with Beacon 38: The concrete is still in amazing shape… the ‘concrete’ is basically quartz pebbles held together with cement…that arrow is going to be there for centuries if no one messes with it.  The tower supports were cut off at ground level and what appears to be the fuel oil shed foundation seems to have been broken up but is still visible. One other interesting point of note is the barren ground in the shape of the arrow just a foot or so off the edge of the concrete.  My guess is they ‘salted’ the ground there to enhance the arrow shape from the air.  Decades later there’s still nothing growing there.” Before you consider visiting, John notes this may be on private property.

• About six miles east of Hanna, Wyoming are the overgrown remains of Beacon 31 from the Salt Lake Omaha Airway. Head approximately seven miles west of Hanna and you’ll find the remains of Beacon 29 barely visible and sitting just off 287. (courtesy S-I reader Glenna Hansen)

Summit-BeaconHill3• North of I-80 outside Laramie, Wyoming, the shed and arrow from Summit Radio Beacon 38 (pictured at right) from the Salt Lake Omaha Airway are visible on Beacon Hill in the Laramie Range. The concrete arrow from Beacon 40 is also nearby, about 9 miles NW of Cheyenne. (submissions courtesy S-I reader Glenna Hansen, picture courtesy Mel Duncan).


• In Medicine Bow, Wyoming, the remains of a beacon, shed, and tower are visible but in poor repair. (Beacon number unknown, picture at right courtesy S-I reader Glenna Hansen).

• About five miles south of Superior, Wyoming the remains of a concrete arrow are visible just North of I-80 (beacon number unknown, courtesy S-I reader Curtis Johnson).


Don’t see a beacon listed here? Find other known beacons with this interactive map.



1929 air travel map

Air Traveler’s Map, 1929

Illustrated Map of the Route of Transcontinental Air Transport,” Rand McNally, 1929. Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.

Click thumbnail to view full-size. Warning: large file (5 Mb)


Click here to see the 1945 Civil Aeronautics Administration Air Marking Guide (warning: 45-page pdf). Big thanks to Steve Owen from for sharing this with us!


Do you know of another airway beacon or concrete arrow not listed here but still visible? Contact us with the coordinates and we’ll update the list!


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  1. What a fascinating story! Those early planes must have been flying quite low, the concrete arrows aren’t the easiest to see. I guess it would have been easier with the tower attached.

    I hope some of these are preserved for posterity, this is such an important part of American history.

    Great stuff, as usual, sometimes interesting…

      • The one pictured at St. George, Utah looks very idyllic in the photo supplied. When you google earth it and zoom out, it’s surrounded by new developments and golf courses. It may not last too much longer…

  2. Being the sort of blowhard know it all who prides himself on knowing about all sorts of obscure things, I’m kind of embarrassed I’ve not heard of these before. And I’m with Alex above; those early planes couldn’t have been flying over a thousand feet. That arrow disappears quickly on that google earth map. Great piece as always.

    • The arrows do disappear quickly today, but at the time they were painted bright yellow. I’m sure that made them easier to see, albeit not much. But you’re right, even with a good condition example they’re still difficult to see on satellite view. I’d imagine the lighted beacon towers at night were more helpful than the yellow arrows during the day.

  3. I read about these on another blog recently, but it’s always worth getting your perspective on things. Whereas much of the internet is about showing you as many strange/pretty things as possible with little explanation, you flesh out the details without giving an information overload. Thanks!

  4. Great article – I had no idea that these structures existed. The 90-degree angle arrow is interesting – hard left or right on the rudder to make the change of direction!

  5. Reblogged this on Graham's Blog and commented:
    A fascinating and informative article. I had no idea that such structures existed. Hopefully some will survive encroaching development and the effects of nature.

  6. It wasn’t that the beacons/route became too big for Post Office Department to handle. The Kelly Act of 1926 transferred all airmail routes from public hand to private contractors.

  7. Very nice summary of the history – more accurate than many – and literally covering a lot of ground. Google Earth is improving in quality all the time! Your links to map/sat images are very well done. Our Grants-Milan museum website has some newer pics now – more authentic beacon eqpt and the new roof on the CAA building is completed (but trees are all bare). Open in Saturdays thru winter….

    • Why thank you Steve, this is high praise coming from you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your feedback.

      Thank you for the updated information. I hope you don’t mind I’ve gone ahead and updated the picture and included a link to the beacon’s page on the CCHS site. I’ve also fixed the omission of Grants from the name; now it should say “Grants-Milan.” Cheers!

  8. Many fire lookouts had numbers painted on their roofs, some associated with a beacon, some not. Does anyone know more about this?

    • We do have a CAA “Air Marking” manual in pdf dated 1945 that includes specific guidelines for painting forest tower roofs with a north arrow and coordinates. This style became the norm for CAA structures (generator sheds, flight service stations, etc) in the mid-late ’40’s. We used the template models from this handbook to paint site coordinates on our new museum roof.

      Can’t attach the page image here….but contact us at if you’d like the manual in pdf.

      • Thanks Steve. If there’s anything you feel would be beneficial to this story and you’d allow me to post (text, images, attachments, etc), I’d be happy to add it to the article with appropriate credit/link backs to your page.

  9. Who knows, maybe in a thousand years future humans will come upon these concrete arrows and will surmise that these are the works of aliens for navigation purposes.

  10. I have been researching these for several years. By my count, there are 75 arrows still in existence. The vast majority of these are in the west. However, I have found arrows in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. If any of your readers would like to contribute their notes, photos, and/or possible sites, I would be very greatful.

    • I owned a beacon tower on my property outside of Oak Harbor, OH I just had an offer from an owner of a near by airport. I am thinking about selling to him and would like it appraised. Does anyone know the worth of these towers and also are they worth more to stay on original property? Joann

  11. For those interested, I have a KML file and an Excel spreadsheet of all the know arrows. Since my last post, I have added two more for a total of 77 arrows. To request a copy send an email to

      • Many beacon sites with arrows were abandoned before the NGS /CGS did surveys. Here in NM, the 1929 mid-continent airway route laid out by Lindbergh for TAT was mostly realigned in 1930-31. The sites were stripped and beacons relocated. But by 1932 the CAA was no longer building arrows for most new sites. In some cases (CAA airfields) metal arrows, raised above the snow, were installed.

      • Hello Skye, thanks for the share! I actually had several KML files linked in the article when it was first posted, but I had to remove them because the creators/owners were unhappy I was linking them here.

        I’ll defer to Ray and Steve for that stuff; they can speak intelligently on the subject and point people in the right direction. 🙂

      • LF1332
        Designation: AMBER AIRWAY 4 BEACON 7
        Coordinates: 40.10097392, -95.08517628 This tower is still here no arrow just looked 2/14/15 nw Missouri

  12. Interesting article as I grew up in a home with one of the beacons on our property. It is still standing, but not working. Years ago our local paper ran an article about it and the history behind it. We always used it as a landmark to find our house when telling visitors how to find us.

    • Would you expand on your memories of the beacon? Where was the property? Any details about the beacon would be very helpful. Thanks,

      • Shari, of the April 14th comments is my daughter. I remember when the beacon light was working in the fifities. The beacon light is located 3 miles south of Oak Harbor, OH. The comment on Nov. 15th is mine also. Joann

  13. Hello! Very informative site, thank you.

    I just over flew a beacon tower – I *think* it might 21 – on the SFO – SLC route on a ridge just south west of Fernley, Nevada. Would you like pictures?

    I am a little confused, because I couldn’t see the arrow at all, but perhaps it is covered by sand. I also couldn’t see anything that made the Fernley Intermediate Airfield stand out a bit to the east. I thought there was a bulls eye remaining, but I couldn’t see it.

    • Hi John, yes I would like to see the pictures. I might be able to include them in the post if we can verify it is a beacon location. Do you happen to know the coordinates? I scanned Fernley on Google maps and it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

      A lot of cool stuff out there though, I’ll say that! Email the pictures to sometimes.interesting at gmail dot com if you don’t mind and we’ll give a closer look. Thanks!

  14. Hi! This is so interesting to me as I have never heard of them! Does anyone know if there are any located in Arizona? Also, where are the ones in Pennsylvania?
    Thank you!

    • Cleo, we have a friend who’s researched Arizona airways for quite a few years; there are plenty of beacon sites but it does not appear that any concrete arrows were built in the state. New Mexico has several between Gallup and Albuquerque, plus CAA airports on the southern border airway had them (Rodeo NM to El Paso).

      As a side note, by 1931 the concrete arrows were being superseded at some new airway locations by metal-panel arrows on steel frames – that did not require a snow-shovel!

  15. I had a hard time trying to bring up the arrow for Montello Nevada. Do you have the GPS for this one?

  16. Nice and interesting story. I’d heard about these before, don’t remember where, but had forgotten about them. Thanks for the links to the maps. Fun to see on Google earth!

  17. A really good read. I’ve been a pilot since 1972, I’m still an aircraft owner today. I knew about the lighted airways (beacons) but never heard of the arrows. I’ve got to see, in person, these pieces of history. New item for my bucket list!

  18. As a child in the early ’70s I remember there used to be one of these just off the grounds of Meadows Field in Bakersfield, CA.. It was removed when the airport runway was expanded/upgraded to accept 737’s…

    • That’s sad, I can’t imagine how many of these have been lost to redevelopment. That’s the advantage of being remote, I guess. Some have better prospects of lasting than others. Thanks for stopping by Jim.

  19. Great information! From Ohio westward the airmail beacon route seems to pattern closely the Lincoln highway which was the 1st transcontinental highway. (reference: American Road by Pete Davis)

  20. Hi from AZ. . . I remember seeing an arrow pointed toward Phoenix out East on US 60. I’ll head that way soon & hopefully come up with position/more details ! thanks for a very interesting article/series, Regards, Craig

  21. I remember as a kid the beacon about 5 miles away was viewed from my bedroom window nightly. It must have been shut down some time in the late 1940’s.
    At that time we were on the air route and planes flew at 5,000 feet. There was always one in the sky during the day time.
    The site is near Clarion, PA just off Interstate 80.

  22. I haven’t been to Stone Mountain in many years so I don’t know what could be seen today. Here is a quote from the Georgia Trails website:

    Near the Skylift’s Upper Station look for yellow paint directly on the rock. Before the beaconing system that guided airplanes was installed in the late 1920’s, the top of Stone Mountain was painted with a massive yellow arrow and the word “Atlanta” to guide planes to the city.

  23. I grew up in Medicine Bow, Wyoming back in the 50;s. The most fantastic woman I have ever met in my life had her own airplane and pilots license, she named her daughter Amelia after her heroin whom she idolized. Went on my first airplane flight with her when I was 10 years old which I still remember today after flying millions of miles.since.I remember the airport, beacon and arrow there so well. Grew up with its beacon shinning for 20 years as a reminder. Her name was Ellen Smith and just last week my brother called me to inform me she had passed on at 93. She also had two great boys and as if by fate her oldest son had retired from the Navy, and recently came back from the far East where he was a Master drone engineer flight commander, I think his title was. The arrow, beacon and emergency field is still all there standing yet as it was 70 years ago.

  24. Joann, I am sorry that I did not get to your post sooner. In my opinion the assemble if complete and structurely sound is worth in excess of $5 thousand. As these sites are all usually heavily weathered and corroded, that price is widely variable. Steve at would be a better source. That said, preserving the site in place is always the best option. The historical signifigance is a combination of structure and location. My best guess is that your location is beacon 24 on the Chicago to New York airway. Can you provide the exact location of your beacon? Please reply to me directly at Thanks.

    • My location of the tower on my property is at 2342 S. Woodrick Rd., Oak Harbor, Ohio which is on the route between Cleveland and Toledo.

  25. Thanks to all your comments, I have been able to locate 10 additional arrows. That brings to total to 85. Thanks to all that contribute.

  26. Does anyone know how to contact this site. We have info on one possibly two arrows and one beacon site not listed,(some ruins remain) in Pershing County, Nevada. Thanks

  27. We heard about these several years ago and forgot. Then a friend of mine, who happens to be a retired postal worker, sent me a link to your site. Now it’s become a bit of a challenge for us since we travel all over the country by car. We’ve already visited the one near Reidville, SC, (although it’s actually in Woodruff), and are looking forward to seeing two in Utah and one in Oregon within the next month or so. GREAT article!

    • Hi Linda, thanks for the correction on Reidville, I’ve updated the page to reflect the information. Glad you enjoyed it, please let us know if you come across any more. 🙂

  28. That’s awesome- will try to hunt one of these on my USA honeymoon trip in Autumn. regards from Poland, Manuela

  29. Just came across this post. Very interesting. I noticed In a post from 4/23/14 someone mentioned Flight Service Stations. I worked as a specialist and supervisor in FSS for many years. This correlates with the history of flight service and air traffic control in the U.S. The following is from a post on the history of flight service: “In May 1918, the first air mail route was established between New York and Washington, D.C., with other short routes in the eastern states following. The Army turned the operation over to the Post Office in August 1918, transferring all the equipment and personnel. As Air Mail routes slowly expanded, work was started on the transcontinental route. This ambitious plan called for a 2,612-mile route from New York to San Francisco, complete with the 17 primary landing fields having an Air Mail Radio Station (AMRS). The transcontinental route opened on August 20, 1920. All 17 AMRS were operational by the end of 1921. The AMRS specialist made local weather observations, obtained other weather information by radio, and often made their own forecasts. They also assisted in loading and unloading mail, servicing the airplane, and maintaining their own equipment, often building their own radios.” These beacons/arrows are basically the roots of the air traffic control system. If anyone is interested, here’s the full article on the history of flight service.

  30. I’ve been following accounts of these arrows for years. I’m currently writing Juvenile Fiction, and I’m using the arrow system as an element in the april fool’s day chapter of my upcoming book, “The Misadventures of the Electric Detention”. Publicatation date? “Hopeful”

    Looking for a location I can pass off as the site of the “National Air Mail Arrow Festival” without offending somebody (so hard to do that nowadays — everything is SOMEBODY’s cause).

  31. The listing above says “complete specimen sits in relatively good condition” about 30 minutes into the mountains from Raton, NM, but I can’t see an arrow on Google Maps; only the buildings and beacon. I can’t see an arrow on the picture provided above either. Has anyone been there recently, or otherwise know if the arrow is there or not? It is very remote, so I can’t imagine that any development has encroached on the site. I would love to see an arrow in person! I drive over the mountain between Trinidad and Raton fairly regularly, so I think my best first chance to see one may be there, if it exists. Thanks for the great article (and any information on the arrow at that site)!!!

    • Elisha, sorry I misspoke – it’s a complete specimen of the shack & tower. There is actually no concrete arrow on site. I was able to verify this through user-uploaded photos on Google maps of the generator shack. I do not know the story behind why there is no concrete arrow at this location, if anyone has any information behind that I’d like to know. Beautiful country out that way Elisha, you are a lucky person to live there. 🙂

      • Thanks for the clarification on that, I’ll have to shoot for a different arrow. It may be worth checking out the one by Raton anyway, like you said, it’s beautiful country! It looks to me like the station is on a high spot on top of a cliff overlooking a valley.

  32. Thanks for doing the research. I may have missed it, but didn’t see anything about the Arrow north of Payson, Arizona, directing old time pilots to Phoenix. Every September the Payson Pilots Assn. has a fun weekend they call. “Paint the Rocks Party”. They go up there, camp out, have fun and paint the rocks.

    • Hi Al, I checked my list and I don’t think I have that one. I did a cursory explore of the map over and around Payson, I didn’t see an arrow but I wouldn’t be surprised if one is there; the landscape and terrain fit the pattern, and it’s not unusual to see them near airports. If you can give me a better idea of where to look, I can spend more time searching. Thanks!

  33. Hello! Just explored Beacon #38, Cheyenne, Wyoming, today. It was fascinating! I don’t think the land it is on is private property, it seems more like BLM land. There are a few barbed-wire fences and gates you will need to be sure you close properly, but nowhere did I see a “Private Property” sign. We saw other people on the land as well, hunters I believe.

    The arrow is in pretty good shape. It was neat to be able to visit a piece of history today!

    • Thanks for the feedback on that Amanda. I’m guessing since there are barbed wire fences and gates, it’s not considered “public access” land either way. I don’t know if being BLM or private land is less risky for visitors? Maybe someone else can chime in on that one. Although BLM land is usually marked too, isn’t it? Hmm. Well glad you were able to safely visit! Thanks for stopping by.

  34. I found a beacon that appears to have the metal wings that were added to enhance visibility in snowy areas. coordinates are 41.67164858-108.94131533 . Also found one still painted yellow
    in the mountains but didn’t save the coordinates.

    • Thanks Randy, you mean the one just south of Superior correct? We had that one listed, but I realized the previous sorting was still difficult to find discovered arrows. I’ve re-arranged all the locations by state to make finding locations easier. This was long-overdue, I apologize to everyone for not having addressed this earlier.

  35. In the North West corner of the city golf course, at the south east corner of Urban and Arlington in Reno, NV was one of these markers, now covered with dirt for the gold course. The golf course use to be the airport for Reno. The tower and light was used to identify the airport.

    • David, thanks for the good description. Is this it?

      I switched to street view and at first it looked like a concrete foundation, but upon closer inspection it might be a vent shaft for something underground. I don’t know if this is what you were referring to or if the old arrow was located nearby.

      • I don’t have a record of that beacon. The closest one was the Hubbard Field Awy beacon (now a taxiway) and the second closest was beacon #18 at 39.490023° -119.964916° which shows no remains. Perhaps the gentleman was thinking of the pattern indicator (large arrow things with a windsock) & beacon at the old airport.

    • Thanks for the information C. Alexander, I’ve updated the post. Those pictures of the old beacon are fantastic! Would you mind if I used one for the article? Thanks for stopping by and sharing this with us. 🙂

  36. You have the Reidville and the Woodruff arrows listed as two different ones, but they go to the same arrow. But this article is fascinating! The one in Effingham, I used to ride right by it going to elementary school!!!!

  37. In Nevada, these are both the same arrow:

    • Just outside the Toiyabe National Forest in Reno, a concrete arrow is barely visible and in poor condition (beacon number unknown).

    • Outside of Reno near Verdi, Nevada, the remains of an eastward-facing concrete arrow can be seen in the mountains south of town. (courtesy S-I reader Mark Walker, beacon number unknown)

  38. I have flow out of Cable Airport in Upland California for 50 years, the rotating beacon at Cable airport started out as an airway beacon.The story is that it was acquired buy Dewey Cable in the 1950 when it was decommissioned and left for scrap in the middle of the desert. Dewey and his brothers went out and took it down and resembled it for use at Cable Airport. It is great returning to Cable on a clear night because you can pick out Cable Airports Rotating Beacon from 40 miles away. In the 1930’s my dad flew the mail for Hanford Airlines in a Lockheed Vega NC905Y one of the three that were named Winnie Mae and told stories about the Beacon system and I have fond memories of flying with my dad in the plane that I still own to Las Vegas at night in the early 1960 when some of the tower were still in use. It was my job to watch for next light to flash to guide us on the trip, it seemed that when you were just on top of the light you were flowing the next one ahead would come into site. I know now that my dad was using the omni system but it sure made me feel part of the Crew. Thank you for your work and bringing back those memories.

  39. I flew 2 of these beacon airways in 1976 or 1977 with my flight instructor in southern California . They were, according to him, the last 2 in the state and probably the last ones in the country except for a couple in Alaska. Shortly after this they were no more.

    Peter Anninos

  40. Tonight, we are having a dedication for the arrow in our neighborhood in Cartersville, GA…on “Arrow Mountain Road!”

  41. If you go to yahoo news there is a story about another type of concrete marker in the desert of arizona used for satellite camera focusing during the cold war.

  42. Hi! Anyone in Southern Oregon…there is a concrete arrow on top of Beacon hill in Grants Pass on the east side of town. I remember always wondering about it back in the 70s and 80s. You can see it from google.

    Lat/long 42.4516 -123.2979

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