Tour #6: Los Alamos, New Mexico

Tuesday, June 25, 7:30 AM – 5:30 PM Tour Price: $80

Visit the Los Alamos Historical Museum, where you will learn the stories of Los Alamos from multiple perspectives via indoor and outdoor venues. Then we will visit the Bradbury Science Museum, your window into Los Alamos National Laboratory and their contributions to modern science, research and technology including its role in the Manhattan Project. There will be a guided tour of the site and geology of the area. Lunch on your own.

History of Los Alamos

Los Alamos (Spanish: Los Álamos, meaning “The Cottonwoods” or “The Poplars”) is a town in Los Alamos County, New Mexico that is recognized as the birthplace of the atomic bomb—the primary objective of the Manhattan Project by Los Alamos National Laboratory during World War II. it is located approximately 35 miles to the northwest of Santa Fe at an elevation of 7,320 feet and the total land area is 11.14 square miles. The town is located on four mesas of the Pajarito Plateau, and has a population of 12,019.

Los Alamos is built on the Pajarito Plateau between White Rock Canyon and the Valles Caldera. The first settlers on the plateau are thought to be Keres speaking Native Americans around the 10th century. Around 1300, Tewa settlers immigrated from the Four Corners Region and built large cities but were driven out within 50 years by Navajo and Apache raids and by drought. Both the Keres and Tewa towns can be seen today in the ruins of Bandelier National Monument and Tsankawi.

The land of the plateau was then divided up for homesteading. Most residents of the plateau built simple log cabins that they only lived in during warm weather to feed livestock, with the homesteaders moving down to the warmer Rio Grande Valley. Homesteader Harold H. Brook sold part of his land and buildings to Detroit businessman Ashley Pond II in 1917 which began the Los Alamos Ranch School, named after the aspen trees that blossomed in the spring.

In 1942, during World War II, the Department of War began looking for a remote location for the Manhattan Project. The school was closed when the government used its power of eminent domain to take over the Ranch School and all the remaining homestead that same year. The Ranch School was paid $225 per acre; the homesteaders were paid between $7 and $15 per acre. All information about the town was highly classified until the bombing of Hiroshima.

All incoming truckloads were labeled as common items to conceal the true nature of their contents, and any outbound correspondence by those working and living in Los Alamos was censored by military officials. At the time, it was referred to as “The Hill” by many in Santa Fe, and as “Site Y” by military personnel. The mailing address for all of Los Alamos was PO Box 1663, Santa Fe, NM. After the Manhattan Project was completed, White Rock was abandoned until 1963 when people began to re-inhabit and rebuild new homes and buildings.

Los Alamos National Laboratory was established as a research government facility under the Department of Energy.

On November 10, 2015, the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of Energy announced the establishment of Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos, along with units in Hanford, Washington and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

1940’s Main Gate to Los Alamos

Visit the Los Alamos National Labratory website

Bradbury Science Museum

“Project Y” at Los Alamos was the part of the Manhattan Project responsible for designing and building the first atomic bomb. The project’s director, J. Robert Oppenheimer, chose the site for secrecy and scientific considerations, but also because he thought the ruggedly scenic country would appeal to his team of scientists.

The technical areas of the Lab are not open to the public. However, the Laboratory’s Community Programs Office operates the Bradbury Science Museum in downtown Los Alamos to provide a window into the history of the institution, its national security mission, and the broad range of exciting science and technology research to improve our nation’s future.

Visitors experience more than 40 interactive exhibits within the Museum’s three galleries–History, Defense and Research. Two 16–minute films shown throughout the day tell the stories of the race to build the first atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project and the work the Lab does today to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. TechLab is a hands–on, do–it–yourself space geared toward children and families for exploring scientific and technical concepts. Under group programs, Science on Wheels takes hands–on science activities on–the–road in northern New Mexico to grades 4–6. Museum Explorations provides two–hour customized visits for K–12 school classes. Both of these school programs are tied to the New Mexico Science Content Standards and Benchmarks, and Performance Standards Strands and Benchmarks.

Visit the Bradbury Science Museum website

One-way Driving time:  1¾ hours.

Tour includes:  Round-trip motor coach transportation, tickets, guide,taxes and gratuity. Lunch is on you own. 

Special Wear:  None

ADA Compliant: