For those of you who know me or have been on a tour with me, you know how obsessed I get with Las Vegas history and the fun of learning something new and interesting. Like the fact that when aviation first began, they used concrete arrows painted yellow to help the early mail carrier pilots find their way to the next airport.
These giant arrows were called Beacon Stations and helped guide the pilots of early airmail flights across the nation. They pointed to the next numbered beacon station, directing the pilot along his route. All arrows pointed east on the west-east airways and north on the south-north airways.
Today, very few of those arrows exist. Many lost to development, while others were abandoned or the beacon tower was cut down and used for scrap metal for the war effort in the 1940’s.
To Know It’s Here
To know one was right here in Las Vegas, made it an obsession of mine. To see photos of it was a fun find, but where was this? I needed to now. I needed to go see it and say “I was there” I touched history while seeing an amazing view of the Las Vegas valley! I was also getting upset when I would see something on TV reality shows about these “mysterious” arrows appearing out of nowhere and trying to make it out to be some alien markers…
Thank You Googe Maps and a website that gave me the GPS coordinates for the surviving mysterious arrows, I was close to experiencing history. Now, for anybody who has ever tried to do GeoCaching in the Las Vegas region, you know having the GPS coordinates are one thing, getting to them is another story. You may be only a few feet away, but a large valley or maybe even a slot canyon could be the one thing standing between you and the pot of gold. Or some landowner and a fence. We don’t trespass!!
Up For an Adventure?
My wife Debbie is a trooper. She is almost always up for an adventure. She smiles every time I say “Up for an adventure” because a few of these adventures took us to places no man in their right mind would ever want to go while other desert adventures have led us to some unexpected and amazing adventures we will never forget.
This one I was silent about, yet she was still game. It’s been awhile since we did something like this, and the itch to get out and explore was hitting her as much as it was me. . So on Easter Sunday, after seeing the grandkids in their church production, we changed clothes, grabbed our hiking bag and we were off.
After a simple hike up a rocky mountainside and arriving at the top, seeing the valley all around is always a moment that can take your breath away. The Las Vegas valley has so much diversity in geology and ecology. Then to look behind us and see where the I-15 Traffic is coming into Las Vegas, imaging the pilots of the open air cockpit planes, the first generation of aviation daredevils, hangout out of their planes hoping to see that 70-foot yellow arrow.
The one arrow we were discovering not only pointed to Las Vegas but had a bend in it, telling the pilot they needed to make a small course correction northward or they would soon be meeting a pile of rocks on the other side of the valley in an area we now call Nellis Air Force Base!
To stand there, looking across the valley, knowing that 100 years ago, very few people even inhabited this area, and yet, in what was the middle of nowhere, men carried equipment and supplies up this hill to build these things. And except for the beacon tower, the arrow is still here. God Bless these workers. Not only did they get all the equipment up the hill, they built something that would last! The concrete of these 90-year-old arrows looked better than the 5-year-old concrete sidewalk you would see in front of your house!
This was a fun and easy adventure and I am so glad to have done it. From parking the car, hiking up to the top, walking around and getting video and photos, then back down to car, an easy way to spend 2 hours. Las Vegas is filled with many other adventures and you will see more of them as we go along here. If you have a Las Vegas hiking or adventure story, let me know. Ok??
Las Vegas Airport History
The airmail planes following these arrows and beacons were for the Western Air Express company and they were heading for Anderson Field (Rockwell Field). That sat right about where the SLS Resort sits today (Sahara Ave and Las Vegas Boulevard). In 1929, the land was sold and the airport was moved to the site of the current Nellis Air Force Base. Once that was taken over by the military, Clark County needed to find a new airfield. Aviator George Crockett had started Alamo Field in 1942, just south of the city of Las Vegas, at the present location of McCarran Airport. Alamo Field became the new McCarran Field on December 19, 1948.
If You Go
I have had some serious reservations about posting this, and I have left a lot of details about its location out because I want those who meant o do the location harm, will have to work to find its location. Not much work, but they will have to put some thought into it.
As a professional tour director who has traveled all over the western United States, Mexico, and Canada, I have started to literally hate the social media “Look at Me” mentality that has embraced people of all ages and walks of life. They see something neat on Facebook or Instagram that someone else has done and they feel the need to repeat the actions and enhance it by adding graffiti or other destructive behaviors, just to snap a selfie and post it for all their online friends to see just how cool they are.
I think I can speak for a lot of others who love to explore and discover hidden historical landmarks like this, just for the sheer joy of standing in the footsteps of greatness created by others long before us. Not to be like some male dog that feels needs to pee on everything it sees, we do this for the joy of it and when we make posts of our adventures, its to show others that America is the land of mystery, history and that Las Vegas is not just the overpriced casinos and celebrity restaurants.
Some of us would really like to track down the social media vandals and.. shall we say, make them disappear from society? So I beg of you to please honor the request of your fellow explorers and pack out what you pack in. Leave it as you found it for the next people to enjoy and stand in awe of its beauty and achievement just as you have. Don’t spray paint, chip or destroy the legacy of our forefathers. PLEASE!!!!
Las Vegas Airport History: Wikipedia