GRANTS, N.M. (KRQE) – Seemingly mysterious giant concrete arrows are plopped in the middle of nowhere all across the United States, and many right here in New Mexico.
At their peak usage, there were about 1,500 of them from coast to coast – each about 70 feet long.
“A massive concrete arrow is a pretty unusual feature in the terrain,” Steve Owen with the Grants Aviation Heritage Museum said.
Most are hidden in remote areas, like one on top of a mesa north of Acoma. Others are just off roadways, waiting to be discovered by those who are unaware.
“Some of them we found traces of yellow paint [on],” Owen said.
Although they appear to point to nothing, they have – or really, had – a purpose. And Owen knows all about it.
“This segment was Los Angeles to Amarillo and ultimately onto the East Coast of course,” Owen said.
The arrows, along with a lighted beacon tower and generator shed, were for the use of U.S. airmail in the late 1920’s and early 30’s.
“The idea was that from 1,000 feet over the ground level, a pilot could fairly easily see these yellow arrows,” Owen said.
They lit the way for the pilots, spaced about 10 miles apart. Beacon number 68 still sits just southwest of Atrisco Vista and I-40 in Albuquerque.
“Going into Amarillo, you would see beacon number 96, I believe, and of course that was 960 miles [from LA],” Owen said.
As technology advanced over time, the arrows became obsolete and were abandoned, only to be shrouded in mystery for many.
But a quick trip to Grants, and the history of the arrows becomes clear.
“Not so mysterious,” Owen said. The Grants Aviation Heritage Museum has a replica arrow and an authentic, restored generator shed and beacon tower on display to the public. There’s also a museum and some very friendly staff members who would love to tell you much more about the history of the arrows.
Internet bloggers have mapped out some of the known arrows here. Be careful if you want to visit one, though. Many in New Mexico are on tribal land.