Los Alamos, New Mexico
A westward aerial view of Los Alamos
A westward aerial view of Los Alamos
Atomic City; The Hill;
Site Y; Secret City (past)
"Where discoveries are made"
Location of Los Alamos, New Mexico
Location of Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico is located in New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Location in New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico is located in the United States
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Location in the contiguous United States
Coordinates: 35°53′28″N 106°17′52″W / 35.89111°N 106.29778°W / 35.89111; -106.29778Coordinates: 35°53′28″N 106°17′52″W / 35.89111°N 106.29778°W / 35.89111; -106.29778
Country United States
State New Mexico
CountyLos Alamos
 • Total11.11 sq mi (28.77 km2)
 • Land11.11 sq mi (28.77 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
7,320 ft (2,231 m)
 • Total13,179
 • Density1,186.44/sq mi (458.09/km2)
Time zoneUTC−7 (Mountain (MST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−6 (MDT)
ZIP codes
87544, 87547
Area code505
FIPS code35-42320
GNIS feature ID0901357

Los Alamos (Spanish: Los Álamos) is a census-designated place 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.[3] 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 entrance to Los Alamos was guarded at the Main Gate during the Manhattan Project.
The entrance to Los Alamos was guarded at the Main Gate during the Manhattan Project.

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.[4] 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.[5][6]


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.

cliffs, mesas, pine-filled canyons, and distant mountains
View from the Anderson Overlook.


Los Alamos has a humid continental climate (Dfb)[7][8] 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, New Mexico, 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1918–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 65
Mean maximum °F (°C) 51.9
Average high °F (°C) 40.3
Daily mean °F (°C) 30.4
Average low °F (°C) 20.5
Mean minimum °F (°C) 4.8
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
Source: NOAA[9][10]

Wildlife and vegetation

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..."[11] There are six different plant communities within the county; each is home to unique flora and fauna.[11] 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.[11]

Black bears (brown-color variation), elk, mule deer, bobcats, gray foxes, skunks and chipmunks are examples of mammals living in the area.[12] "Over 200 species of birds have been reported" in the Pajarito Ornithological Survey conducted by LANL.[13] Among these are broad-tailed hummingbirds, hairy woodpeckers, zone-tailed hawks, common ravens, western bluebirds, and great horned owls.[13]


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.

Aftermath of the Cerro Grande Fire of 2000
Aftermath of the Cerro Grande Fire of 2000

The Las Conchas Fire of June 26, 2011[14] burned about three times as many acres and also prompted evacuation of Los Alamos, but there was no damage to property in Los Alamos.[15] It was the biggest wildfire New Mexico had endured.[14]

Wildfire (year) Burned area Cause
Water Canyon Fire (1954) 3,000 acres (10 km2)[16] trash/construction debris fire[16]
La Mesa Fire (1977) 15,400 acres (60 km2)[16] human-caused[16]
Dome Fire (1996) 16,500 acres (65 km2) abandoned campfire[17]
Oso Complex Fire (1998) 5,200 acres (20 km2) arson
Cerro Grande Fire (2000) 48,000 acres (195 km2)[18] controlled burn
Las Conchas Fire (2011) 156,800 acres (635 km2)[19] Power line[20]

Wildfires have altered plant communities in the area. Plant species are migrating to cover burn areas.

Environmental remediation

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.[21] Some residents have voiced concern about a lack of public participation and opportunity to comment on the cleanup schedule and funding.[22]


The current population is 12,019, as of 2010, with a population density of 1,078.7 inhabitants per square mile (416.5/km2).[23] The median age is 40 years.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] For every 100 females, there were 101.3 males.[citation needed]

Historical population
Source: U.S. Decennial Census[24]


Racial composition 2010[23]
White 85.9%
Non-Hispanic 74.8%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 14.3%
Asian 7.2%
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.[23]


Notable people

J. Robert Oppenheimer, c. 1944
J. Robert Oppenheimer, c. 1944

Manhattan Project

1945 onwards

Sports and recreation

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[26] 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: Los Alamos High School[27]). 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%.[28]

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.[citation needed]

Income and poverty

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.[23] Los Alamos has the highest millionaire concentration of any US city, with 12.4 percent of households having at least $1 million in assets.[29] This is a result of chemists, engineers, and physicists working at LANL since the Manhattan Project.[30] Only 6.6% of people are below the poverty line; one-third the rate of New Mexico.[23] As of January 2015, there were zero homeless individuals.[31]

Families and housing

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.[23]

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.[citation needed]

Principal employers

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.[32]

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.[33]


Los Alamos provides several transportation services:[34][35]


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.

Transit systems


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.

Health care

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"[36] and employs about 300 Northern New Mexicans.[37]

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.[38]

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.[39]

VLBA node

The radio telescope located in Los Alamos is one of ten dishes composing the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA).

City and regional partnerships

Sister city

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,[40] which helped create educational programs and resources for entrepreneurs and remote workers.[41]

See also


  1. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  2. ^ "Census Population API". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  3. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Los Alamos CDP, New Mexico". www.census.gov. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  4. ^ "Our History".
  5. ^ Pearce, T.M. ed., New Mexico Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary, UNM Press 1965, ISBN 0-8263-0082-0
  6. ^ Julyan, Robert Hixson (1998), The Place Names of New Mexico, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, p. 208, ISBN 978-08263-1689-9
  7. ^ Bowen, Brent M. (May 1990). Los Alamos Climatology. Los Alamos: Los Alamos National Laboratory. pp. 3–5.
  8. ^ Environmental Surveillance at Los Alamos during 2008. Los Alamos National Laboratory. September 2009. p. 32.
  9. ^ "NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  10. ^ "Summary of Monthly Normals 1991-2020". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  11. ^ a b c Foxx, Teralene; Craig, Martin; Dorothy, Noonan (2016). Plants of the Jemez Mountains, Volume 1. Los Alamos, NM: All Seasons Publishing. pp. 1–3. ISBN 978-0-963-90407-2.
  12. ^ Findley, James S.; Arthur H., Harris; Don E., Wilson; Clyde, Jones (1975). Mammals of New Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 289, 293, 319, 327. ISBN 0-8263-0369-2.
  13. ^ a b Travis, James R. (October 1992). Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Los alamos County, New Mexico. Los Alamos: Los Alamos National Laboratory. pp. 2–3, 14, 51, 71, 87, 101, 145, 177.
  14. ^ a b "Wildfires may contribute more to global warming than previously predicted | EarthSky.org". earthsky.org. July 9, 2013. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  15. ^ "Las Conchas Wildfire". Incident Information System. Archived from the original on July 9, 2011. Retrieved July 6, 2011.
  16. ^ a b c d Balice, R.G.; Oswald, B.P.; Martin, C. (March 1999). "Fuels Inventories in the Los Alamos National Laboratory". Los Alamos National Laboratory. doi:10.2172/7385. S2CID 140538562. Retrieved January 10, 2016. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ "N.M. fire threatens Indian sites". Lawrence Journal-World. Associated Press. April 29, 1996. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  18. ^ "Lessons Learned From the Cerro Grande (Los Alamos) Fire" (PDF). United States General Accounting Office Testimony. US Government Accountability Office. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  19. ^ "Las Conchas Wildfire". Incident Information System. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  20. ^ "Investigators determine cause of Las Conchas Fire". New Mexico Fire Information. July 3, 2011. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
  21. ^ "Environmental Stewardship". LANL.gov. Los Alamos National Security for US Department of Energy. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  22. ^ o'neil, marie (January 3, 2018). "doe/nmed host meeting on legacy waste clean-up". los alamos daily post.
  23. ^ a b c d e f "Los Alamos CDP, New Mexico". State & County QuickFacts. U.S. Census Bureau.
  24. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  25. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1965". www.nobelprize.org.
  26. ^ "Pajarito Mountain Ski Area".
  27. ^ Goettee, Consetta. "home". Los Alamos Public Schools. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  28. ^ Reporter, Los Alamos (March 6, 2021). "Los Alamos Public Schools Four-Year Graduation Rate Is 93.3 Percent". Los Alamos Reporter. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  29. ^ "Los Alamos ranked highest in wealthy households | LAMonitor.com". www.lamonitor.com. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  30. ^ Burney, Teresa (December 7, 2011). "Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost, and Millionaire-Making Jobs". Builder. 34 (12): 16.
  31. ^ http://www.nmceh.org/pages/reports/2015%20Point%20In%20Time%20by%20County.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  32. ^ Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, for the U. S. Department of. "Transportation for Lab Employees". www.lanl.gov. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  33. ^ Search Results - Los Alamos, New Mexico - ReferenceUSA Current Businesses
  34. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 8, 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 8, 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. ^ "About Us - Los Alamos Medical Center". www.losalamosmedicalcenter.com.
  37. ^ "About Us | Los Alamos Medical Center". www.losalamosmedicalcenter.com. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  38. ^ "Services - Medical Associates of Northern New Mexico - Cardiology". www.mannm.com.
  39. ^ "Home".
  40. ^ Writer, T. S. Last | Journal Staff. "Updated: Coworking spaces blooming in Los Alamos, elsewhere". www.abqjournal.com. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  41. ^ "Los Alamos - Sarov Sister Cities - Home". www.lasarov.org. Retrieved May 6, 2019.