Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Visit Trinity Site for a Real Blast from the Past!

The memorial obelisk at ground zero.
The Army expects bigger crowds and longer waits for the public to visit the Trinity Site on White Sands Missile Range this fall due to the recent release of the movie “Oppenheimer.”  

The remote military base in the New Mexico desert was the test site for the world’s first explosion of an atom bomb and is opened to the public twice a year.

“Due to the release of the movie, “Oppenheimer” in July, we are expecting a larger than normal crowd at the 21 October open house,” according to an alert posted on the Army’s Trinity Site web page. “You may experience wait times of up to two hours getting onto the site. If you are not one of the first 5,000 visitors, you might not get through the gate prior to its’ closure at 2 p.m.” 

Sweet duty for this group of soldiers who said they enjoyed working with the public.
During its April open house the Army saw about 3,900 visitors and it took just over an hour for the author’s vehicle to slowly make its way up to and through the manned checkpoint to gain entrance to the site.  

We arrived at around 9:30 a.m. after spending the night at the Days Inn in nearby Socorro where Trinity Site visitors will need to book a room well in advance if they want to stay in town. 

Those who prefer to camp out can find some sites just outside of San Antonio at the Riverine Park off U.S. 380 in the Bosque alongside the irrigation canal. We observed others camped out on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land on the road leading to the Stallion Gate on White Sands Missile Range.

Primitive campsites at Riverine Park off U.S. 380 outside of San Antonio.
Travel to the site from Las Cruces or Albuqueque takes a couple of hours and visitors can only gain entrance through the Stallion Gate on N.M. 525 located off U.S. 380 between San Antonio and Carrizozo. The gate opens at 8 a.m. ID is required. No firearms or marijuana allowed. The call of nature can be strong when waiting in line. Prepare accordingly. See the site's website for more info.

Trinity Site is where the first atomic bomb was tested at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time on July 16, 1945. The 19-kiloton explosion not only led to a quick end to the war in the Pacific but also ushered the world into the atomic age. All life on Earth has been touched by the event, which took place here, according to a brochure on the Trinity Site's webpages

The ranch house where it all came together.
The 51,500-acre area was declared a national historic landmark in 1975. The landmark includes base camp, where the scientists and support group lived; ground zero, where the bomb was placed for the explosion; and the Schmidt/McDonald ranch house, where the plutonium core to the bomb was assembled. Visitors to a Trinity Site Open House are given the opportunity to visit ground zero and the ranch house. In addition, one of the old instrumentation bunkers is visible beside the road just west of ground zero. 

Socorro's plaza area is well worth exploring.

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