On the first Saturday in April and October, the Trinity Site is open to the public. We took the escorted Trip starting from the Tularosa, NM at 7:15AM and entered the missile range through the Tularosa Gate at 8 AM. Just before 10 AM we arrived at the Trinity Site 80 miles into the White Sands Missile Range.
The Trinity Site is where the first atomic bomb was tested at 5:29:45 am 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.
The 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.
The blast made a crater about four feet deep and 240 feet in diameter. Most of the eyewitnesses describe the area as more of a small depression instead of a distinct crater. The heat of the blast vaporized the steel tower and melted the desert sand and turned it into a green glassy substance. It was called Trinitite and small pieces can still be seen in the area. At one time Trinitite covered much of the depression made by the explosion. Afterwards the depression was filled and much of the Trinitite was taken away by the Atomic Energy Commission.
Valley of Fires Recreation Area
We left the Trinity Site through the unescorted Stallion Gate on the north end of the White Sands Missile Range. We headed west to the valley of fires Recreation Area.
From the nature trail circular:
The harsh and beautiful Carrizozo Lava Flow developed from extrusions in the earth’s relatively thin crust in the area. Lava vents extruded lava which flowed on the earth’s surface about 1,500 to 5,000 years ago, making this one of the youngest lava flows in the Continental U.S. The lava flowed south down the Tularosa basin, burying everything in its path except the land you are standing on and a few other islands called Kipukas, The flow is 2 to 5 miles wide and 44 miles long. In places, the lava is 165 feet thick and has a surface area of 127 square miles. The lava is olivine basalt, similar to Hawaiian lava flows. The hill you are standing on is made of Dakota Sandstone, Pushed up from the floor of an ancient sea 130 to 140 million years ago.
Smokey Bear Museum and Park
Then off up the mountains to Capitan, NM to see the “Smokey Bear Museum and Park”. The park pays tribute to a courageous little bear that has become the nation’s symbol for fighting and preventing forest fires. Smokey’s body is buried in the park that bears his name.