Moapa Airmail Arrow - Atlas Obscura

Moapa Airmail Arrow

Moapa Valley, Nevada

A well-preserved example from a 1920s network of airmail navigation arrows sits near Interstate 15 in southern Nevada. 


In the early days of flight, pilots had to follow landmarks on the ground, as radio was primitive and radar non-existent. And flying at night, as might be expected, was extremely hazardous and avoided if at all possible.

The rise of airmail service in the 1920s motivated improvements in the official airmail routes by building easy-to-recognize landmarks that would also allow night flying. Officially named Beacon Stations, these were large concrete arrows, originally painted yellow, that always pointed easterly on east-west routes and northerly on north-south routes. The arrows were also accompanied by a tower with a bright light so pilots could follow a course from light to light after dark.

This arrow is beacon station 31 LA-SL (Los Angeles to Salt Lake City) on CAM (Contract Air Mail) route 04. (It’s also called Mormon Mesa #31.) The tower was salvaged for scrap decades ago, as were those at most of the beacon stations, but the arrow remains in remarkably good shape.

Know Before You Go

If available, the easiest way to the arrow is from a truck parking area on southbound Interstate 15 at about mile 95.5. Here there is a gate through the access fence, which is typically unlocked and not marked as "no trespassing." Cross through this gate onto the obvious dirt road beyond, being sure to close the gate behind you. Now drive up the road toward the prominent installations on the knolls ahead. The arrow will become visible below, on the right, before the road turns south to go to the installations.

If the gate is locked or otherwise unavailable, you can exit at the Carp Exit (#100). Go north about 0.9 miles, then turn left and follow the powerline road 4.9 miles; then turn left back toward the freeway and go 0.8 miles to pick up the road above. These roads are extremely rough and will require high clearance at a minimum.

The arrow itself is at about 36.685337 N, 114.517625 W and shows up plainly in Google satellite view.

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December 25, 2023

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