DescriptionIn 1943 the federal government selected Los Alamos Ranch School as the top-secret, maximum security site for the Manhattan Project, an atomic bomb research and testing program where "Little Boy" and "Fat Man"—the atomic bombs that ended World War II—were built. By 1945, when the first atomic device was detonated at Trinity Site, more than 3,000 civilian and military personnel were working at the laboratory.
Los Alamos National Laboratory continues to apply science to issues of national security, economic strength and energy security. Its staff of 11,000 conducts extensive research about technology associated with nuclear weapons, deterrence and other defense applications, energy production, health, safety and environmental concerns, astrophysics and life sciences.
Explosions of another sort created the rugged setting that was so essential for maintaining the secrecy of the Manhattan Project. About a million years ago the volcanic vents that had built the Jémez Mountains issued 100 cubic miles of ash and pumice and then collapsed. The result is Valle Grande, one of the largest measured calderas on Earth. Covering 148 square miles, the depression has a rim that averages some 500 feet in height above its floor.
SR 4, about 15 miles west of Los Alamos, follows the crater's southern curve and makes it possible to view the vast, grassy bowl. Over time erupting ash hardened into a layer of tuff, the Pajarito Plateau, which seems even more remote because it is protected by a series of finger-like canyons serrating its edges.
Within the plateau is Bandelier National Monument, the site of extensive Ancestral Puebloan ruins. Guided hiking trips and van tours of Valles Caldera National Preserve offer opportunities to explore the region's geology, archeology and wildlife; phone (575) 829-4100 for information.
Visitor InfoLos Alamos Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center 109 Central Park Sq. LOS ALAMOS, NM 87544. Phone:(505)662-8105 or (800)444-0707
Self-guiding toursA guidebook available at the visitor center and the Los Alamos County Historical Museum (1050 Bathtub Row) outlines a walking tour of local historical sites. A virtual tour app provided by the Manhattan Project National Historical Park guides users on a walking tour past more than a dozen sites used during the Manhattan Project. The Los Alamos Visitor Contact Station (475 20th St.) can provide more information about the virtual tour app; phone (505) 661-6277.
Things to SeeBradbury Science Museum