History and Symbolism of the National Park Service Arrowhead

Sharon Ringsven

The National Park Service Arrowhead has a logo known far and wide. It’s in Visitor Centers, on park signs and brochures, and has become a recognizable symbol. The National Park Service (NPS) has been around since 1916 when Congress passed the Organic Act. This act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson to establish the NPS for regulating the use of federal land. During that time, there were few attempts to create a logo or symbol to represent the Park Service. For the first few years, an informal logo was used that featured a sequoia pine cone with branches, followed by a contest in 1949 that resulted in a “modern” design, though it did not symbolize what the parks were about. In July 1951, a park historian design with an arrowhead and sequoia tree was refined and became the authorized arrowhead design that we recognize today. One year later, the Oregon Caves National Monument became the first park to use the Arrowhead in park brochures. Finally, in 1955 we saw the Arrowhead make its way onto the official NPS uniform.

The NPS is tasked with protecting many areas of interest, and those are represented by the symbols on the Arrowhead. The sequoia tree and bison represent vegetation and wildlife, the mountains and water represent scenic and recreational values, and the arrowhead represents historical and archeological values.

Interested in more? Learn about the history and symbolism of the badges and insignia  Explore the History of NPS Uniforms #1: Badges & Insignia.

The Arrowhead symbol is the registered service mark of the National Park Service (NPS) and is reprinted with permission by the National Park Service. Sharon Ringsven is a SaddleBrooke Ranch resident and National Park Service employee.