Los Alamos, New Mexico
Atomic City; The Hill;
Site Y; Secret City (past)
"Where discoveries are made"
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Location in New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Location in the contiguous United States
|• Total||11.1 sq mi (28.8 km2)|
|• Land||11.1 sq mi (28.8 km2)|
|• Water||0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)|
|Elevation||7,320 ft (2,231 m)|
|• Density||1,080/sq mi (417.1/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−7 (Mountain (MST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−6 (MDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||0901357|
Los Alamos is a town in Los Alamos County, New Mexico, United States, that is recognized as the development and creation place of the atomic bomb—the primary objective of the Manhattan Project by Los Alamos National Laboratory during World War II. The town is located on four mesas of the Pajarito Plateau, and had a population of about 13,200 as of 2020. It is the county seat and one of two population centers in the county known as census-designated places (CDPs); the other is White Rock.
The ruins of permanent Puebloan settlements, such as those located in nearby Bandelier National Monument and Tsankawi, and numerous other sites such as cliff dwellings indicate that the area has been inhabited during various eras since around 1150 AD. 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.
In the late 19th century, homesteaders utilized the land for ranching. Most homesteaders built simple log cabins that they only lived in during warm weather to feed livestock. Many of the homesteaders later moved down to the warmer Rio Grande Valley. In 1917, homesteader Harold H. Brook sold part of his land and buildings to Ashley Pond II, a businessman from Detroit who founded the Los Alamos Ranch School. The area was used to teach young men basic ranching and other outdoor survival skills.
In 1943, during World War II, the United States Department of War exercised eminent domain over the Ranch School and all remaining homesteads in the area so that the relatively isolated location could be used for the secretive Manhattan Project, which ultimately developed the world's first nuclear weapons. Facilities for research and development were quickly built and scientists and engineers from all over the world were assigned to the project, however all information about the town and project was held secretively away from public awareness. Los Alamos was referred to under the code name "Site Y" by military personnel, and was known only as "The Hill" by many in nearby Santa Fe. The specific location of the project and all of its residents was also concealed by designating its mailing address as PO Box 1663, Santa Fe, NM. All incoming truckloads were falsely labeled as common items in order 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. Not until after the bombing of Hiroshima was information about the purpose of the Manhattan Project released to the public.
In the years after World War II, the laboratory was established as a research government facility under the Department of Energy, and is now known as Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Los Alamos is a Spanish place name that typically refers to poplar or cottonwood trees. Alternatively, Los Alamos could refer to the large groves of aspen trees (alamo temblon) that intersperse the coniferous forest on the mountainsides above the townsite, where they are distinctly visible during the autumn months due to their spectacular autumn colors.
Los Alamos is located in northern New Mexico between the Rio Grande and the eastern rim of the Valles Caldera on the Pajarito Plateau, approximately 35 mi (56 km) to the northwest of Santa Fe. The elevation at the post office is 7,320 feet (2,230 m) and total land area is 11.14 square miles (28.9 km2).
The Los Alamos Townsite and White Rock are located on flat mesa tops separated by steep canyons. This location was chosen for its relative inaccessibility to help protect the secret activities of the Manhattan Project.
The town of Los Alamos was built on four mesas—Barranca Mesa, North Mesa, Los Alamos Mesa and South Mesa—along with the connecting communities at the base of the mountain. Los Alamos National Laboratory occupies half of South Mesa, Two Mile Mesa, Frijoles Mesa, Mesita de Buey and several nearby areas in the region (in the valleys and at the base of the mountain). White Rock lies at the top of White Rock Canyon.
Much of Los Alamos County is within the Española Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest.
Los Alamos has a humid continental climate (Dfb) with four distinct seasons. Summer days are moderately warm in the 70s and 80s, but reach 90 on only 5 days per year on average.
|Climate data for Los Alamos 1991-2020 normals, extremes 1918-|
|Record high °F (°C)||65
|Average high °F (°C)||40.3
|Average low °F (°C)||20.5
|Record low °F (°C)||−18
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||0.90
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||9.9
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||5.5||6.5||6.5||5.5||6.5||6.7||13.0||14.6||8.5||6.5||4.6||5.7||90.1|
|Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||3.8||4.3||2.8||1.4||0.1||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.8||2.0||4.1||19.3|
Los Alamos' geographical location causes its wildlife and vegetation to be diverse compared to surrounding areas in the state. "The variation in elevation creates precipitation and temperature gradients that support a wide diversity of plant communities..." There are six different plant communities within the county; each is home to unique flora and fauna. Ponderosa pine trees are the most common trees at the elevation of Los Alamos (7,000 and 8,000 feet (2,100 and 2,400 m)). Common shrubs in the area include sagebrush, Gambel oak, and wild rose.
Black bears (brown-color variation), elk, mule deer, bobcats, gray foxes, skunks and chipmunks are examples of mammals living in the area. "Over 200 species of birds have been reported" in the Pajarito Ornithological Survey conducted by LANL. Among these are broad-tailed hummingbirds, hairy woodpeckers, zone-tailed hawks, common ravens, western bluebirds, and great horned owls.
Wildfires have affected the county, but the most destructive to the townsite was the Cerro Grande Fire of May 2000, which caused an estimated $1 billion in damages and destroyed more than 400 homes. The town was evacuated for eight days. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) built temporary housing on North Mesa for those who were displaced by the fire. Though there was no loss of life, other effects include damage to LANL facilities (nuclear material was not affected), flash-flooding, and erosion.
The Las Conchas Fire of June 26, 2011 burned about three times as many acres and also prompted evacuation of Los Alamos, but there was no damage to property in Los Alamos. It was the biggest wildfire New Mexico had endured.
|Wildfire (year)||Burned area||Cause|
|Water Canyon Fire (1954)||3,000 acres (10 km2)||trash/construction debris fire|
|La Mesa Fire (1977)||15,400 acres (60 km2)||human-caused|
|Dome Fire (1996)||16,500 acres (65 km2)||abandoned campfire|
|Oso Complex Fire (1998)||5,200 acres (20 km2)||arson|
|Cerro Grande Fire (2000)||48,000 acres (195 km2)||controlled burn|
|Las Conchas Fire (2011)||156,800 acres (635 km2)||Power line|
Wildfires have altered plant communities in the area. Plant species are migrating to cover burn areas.
Over two thousand sites in the area have been determined to have been impacted as a result of past activities at LANL. The location of these sites have been identified throughout the county, and are primarily (but not exclusively) on DOE property. Contaminated sites vary widely in significance. Corrective action and environmental restoration has been deemed necessary for certain areas; LANL takes part in this process. Some residents have voiced concern about a lack of public participation and opportunity to comment on the clean-up schedule and funding.
The current population is 12,019, as of 2010, with a population density of 1,078.7 inhabitants per square mile (416.5/km2). The median age is 40 years. 24.8% of the people are under the age of 18, 4.8% are ages 18 to 24, 29.2% are ages 25 to 44, 28.2% are ages 45 to 64, and 12.9% are ages 65 years or older. For every 100 females, there were 101.3 males.
|Hispanic or Latino (of any race)||14.3%|
|American Indian and Alaska Native||0.8%|
|Black or African American||0.6%|
Los Alamos is demographically unique compared to its surrounding counties and the state as a whole. Over 35% of the population of surrounding counties (Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, and Sandoval) and the state of New Mexico are Hispanic or Latino, while only about 15% of Los Alamosans are Hispanic or Latino. The white and especially the Asian populations of Los Alamos are significantly higher than the rest of New Mexico.
See also Category:Manhattan Project people
The geography of Los Alamos lends itself to several sports and recreational activities. There is an extensive system of trails within the canyons and into the mountains above the town, catering to all skill levels of running, hiking and mountain biking. The Aquatic Center is an indoor, Olympic-length public swimming pool (soon to be joined by a lazy river), and a public 18-hole golf course (par 72, 6500 yards) has existed since 1947.
Winter sports include skiing at the community-owned Pajarito Mountain Ski Area on 10,440 ft. Pajarito Mountain between November and April. The County maintains New Mexico's only refrigerated, NHL regulation, outdoor ice skating rink on the sun-shaded floor of Los Alamos Canyon, almost beneath the Omega Bridge. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are possible at Valles Caldera National Preserve and other locations, weather permitting.
Los Alamos is host to several sporting events:
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.
Los Alamos Public Schools provides public Kindergarten through High School education (5 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 1 high school). Education in Los Alamos is often said to be among the best in New Mexico. The graduation rate, as of March 6, 2021, is 99.3%, in comparison to New Mexico's 76.9% rate and America's average rate of 85%.
The University of New Mexico also has a branch campus in Los Alamos.
Los Alamos is the fifth-fastest-growing city in New Mexico, after Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Las Cruces, and Ruidoso.
The median household income in Los Alamos is $98,458, and per capita income is $54,067. Income is significantly higher than the rest of New Mexico. Los Alamos has the highest millionaire concentration of any US city, with 12.4 percent of households having at least $1 million in assets. This is a result of chemists, engineers, and physicists working at LANL since the Manhattan Project. Only 6.6% of people are below the poverty line; half the rate of the United States, and one-third the rate of New Mexico. As of January 2015, there were zero homeless individuals.
There are 5,249 households and an average household size of 2.23 people. There are 5,863 housing units, and the median value of owner-occupied housing units is $281,500. Median gross rent is $921.
31.4% of households have children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.4% are married couples living together, 6.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 34.0% are non-families. 29.8% of all households are made up of individuals, and 7.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older.
Los Alamos National Laboratory is the area's largest employer with approximately 10,500 employees, and is foundational to the economy of Los Alamos, with an annual budget of about $2.45 billion. Approximately 40% of the laboratory's employees live in Los Alamos, while the remainder commute from Santa Fe, Española, Taos, and Albuquerque. About 66% of the people who work in the national laboratories commute daily to the lab; some take the Atomic City Transit, Rail Runner Express, use the Park and Ride, or carpool with other employees.
Other major employers in Los Alamos include Smith's Food and Drug, Los Alamos National Bank, Los Alamos Medical Center, Los Alamos County, Los Alamos Public Schools, and Del Norte Credit Union.
Los Alamos provides several transportation services:
Los Alamos is relatively isolated, and can only be accessed from NM 4 from the south and NM 502 from the east.
NM 502 sees significantly more traffic because it connects with US 84/285, which delivers access to several Pueblo communities between Española and Santa Fe. Approximately 10,000 commuters use NM 502 daily. NM 502 begins at Pojoaque, and traverses San Ildefonso Pueblo and the Rio Grande.
Interstate 25 is the nearest major interstate highway, and passes through or near Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Denver.
There are three access roads between White Rock and Los Alamos—Main Hill Road, Jemez Road and Pajarito Road. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Pajarito Road has been restricted to LANL badge holders for security reasons.
Los Alamos County Airport, located on the eastern edge of Los Alamos, is the only airport in the county. The main source of activity is from small private aircraft, with intermittent commercial commuter service.
Albuquerque International Sunport is a 100 mile drive south of Los Alamos, and serves most national destinations.
The 47-bed acute-care facility known as Los Alamos Medical Center is the only hospital in Los Alamos and is a LifePoint Health hospital. The hospital provides "complete medical, surgical, obstetrical, pediatric, emergency, and diagnostic services" and employs about 300 Northern New Mexicans.
Medical Associates of Northern New Mexico (MANNM) is a group of medical providers that offers family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, nephrology, radiology, and endocrinology among its many services.
During the Cold War, workers at LANL were in contact with radiation and other toxins, causing many of these individuals illness. A non-profit organization called Cold War Patriots provides these individuals and their families with information about the healthcare benefits available to them.
The radio telescope located in Los Alamos is one of ten dishes composing the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA).
Los Alamos maintains sister city status with:
In June 2016 a collaboration was initiated between the County of Los Alamos, the Los Alamos Commerce & Development Corporation and the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Feynman Center for Innovation and Community Relations and Partnerships Office, to open a private, non-profit coworking space called ProjectY cowork Los Alamos, which helped create educational programs for the two cities to learn more about each other's culture and communities.
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