The 70-foot concrete arrows you didn’t notice that were the maps of the sky

Though not as well-known as other geoglyphs around the world, the United States is home to its own unique manmade creations meant to be seen from above. These creations are 50- to 70-foot-long concrete navigational arrows that were originally used by the U.S. Postal Service to guide airmail delivery in the early 20th century. Almost 1,500 of these arrows were constructed, but only around 200 remain today in varying states of existence.

The history of these navigational arrows dates back to the early days of airmail in the U.S. During this time, airmail was still a slow process, as flights were restricted to daylight hours and mail would be transported by train during the night. To expedite the movement of mail, the federal government developed a plan to create a network of beacons and arrows that would provide a clear pathway for pilots to follow.

The beacons were 51-foot metal towers placed approximately 10 miles apart, with a 50- to 70-foot concrete arrow at the base of each beacon. These arrows were painted bright chrome yellow to enhance visibility from the sky. The arrows were laid out in a way that directed pilots to the next navigational complex, guiding them along their route until they reached their destination. Red or green lights flashed Morse code to distinguish each specific beacon and tower.

The arrows played a crucial role in the early days of airmail, helping to establish air routes and facilitate faster mail delivery. Many major U.S. commercial airlines can trace their roots to the incomes generated by the contracts of these early airmail routes. However, as technology advanced and radar and other navigational aids were introduced, the need for the arrows diminished. Most of the towers were disassembled, and some of the steel was used in the war effort during the 1940s.

Today, the remaining arrows can be found in various locations across the United States, ranging from off-the-beaten-path spots to areas near busy highways. They are often hidden underbrush, trees, or on open mountaintops. While they may not be as famous or enigmatic as other geoglyphs, they hold historical significance and offer a glimpse into the early days of flight and airmail delivery.

Discovering these arrows can be a rewarding adventure for those curious travelers who are willing to seek them out. By researching the original locations and routes of the arrows, travelers can plan their own arrow-hunting expeditions. While these arrows may not be the main attraction of a trip, they can serve as interesting side quests and add a unique element to a journey across the country.

In conclusion, the navigational arrows of the United States may not be as well-known as other geoglyphs, but they played a vital role in the early days of airmail delivery. These concrete arrows, along with the beacons they were connected to, provided a clear pathway for pilots to follow and expedited the movement of mail across the country. Today, these arrows serve as reminders of the past and can be discovered by curious travelers who are willing to seek them out.

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