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Trinity Site Historical Marker

Twice a year, visitors can visit the atomic bomb test site on the White Sands Missile Range that started the atomic era.

Location:

South of Albuquerque, NM. About 2 hours from Socorro, NM, the closest town to the north and about 1 hour from Carrizozo to the south

The Scoop

Trinity site is the location where the first atomic bomb was first tested (July 16, 1945). Though Trinity Site is not open to the public year round, they have an Open House twice yearly where the general public is allowed on site. How incredible to be able to visit a living piece of history that changed the world out in the desert of New Mexico.

We happened to be on Spring Break at the same time as the spring Open House (they are always the first Saturday in April and October) and so we were able to make a visit on our way home during a road trip Sidetracking in Ruidoso, Lincoln, and Capitan. We had three generations of our family on this road trip and the kids were the least interested, but curious about checking out the site of the first atomic bomb test (who wouldn't be).

There were very few people living near the Trinity site, and all were paid to leave their land when Manhattan Project officials began constructing the test facility. Today the site sits on the White Sands Missile Range and is a military installation. The Open Houses are free. Because of that, be prepared to show your government photo ID and vehicle registration and proof of insurance to get on the military installation. Reservations are not required, but you may encounter a line of cars waiting to get onto the range. The site closes promptly at 3:30, and the location is remote (about a one hour drive to the nearest town-Socorro) so plan accordingly with gas, food, and snacks for the day.

I was surprised how set back from the gate the historical marker is-we drove quite a ways off of the highway until we reached the parking lot. Be warned there is really nothing here but a monument with some vendors selling souvenirs and food, and port a pottys. The sun can be intense, and we made sure to apply sunscreen and had hats and had tennis shoes on. You do not have to walk very far from the parking area but strollers may have a hard time in the thick sand. The site is set out on the dirt of the missile range.

There was quite a bit of Trinitite, a stone formed with from glassy residue left on the desert floor after the plutonium-based Trinity nuclear bomb test. There were also staff on site with radiation meters and they explained the levels of radiation in the rock and the effects on plant and human life. According to the White Sands Missile Range website, one hour at Trinity Site ground zero = one half mrem compared to about six mrem per chest X-ray.

We walked around the site and took some photos and then headed out. Photography is allowed. You can also take a bus trip to the ranch house where the final bomb assembly took place. There was a line of people waiting to do that and I wish we had stayed around to check it out. Our kids were interested, but not that eager to wait in the hot sun to see more. Trinity Site really is an amazing piece of American as well as human history!

If you have time, the Very Large Array Radiotelescope (an hour's drive west of Socorro) also offers an open house on the first Saturday of the month. So if you visit Trinity Site in the morning, you'll have time in the afternoon to tour the radiotelescope too. Check out my VLA Sidetrack for more information.