In Excursions from Vegas I touched upon the various national and other parks you can visit within reasonable travelling distance of Vegas. There is now an invaluable resource that brings even more of this information together in one place – Find Your Park.
There are effectively ten significant parks and recreation areas within one hour of the city and I don’t mean just that bit of scabby grass between the buildings that’s used as a giant dog toilet!
If you feel up to a five hour drive there are many more wonders including the Rainbow Bridge and Petrified Forest parks (I have one of my pictures from the latter as my PC wallpaper).
Please try Find Your Park. This is a unusually good site for the National Parks Service.
You associate Death valley with a few things: being barren, hot and dead included. Not so at this time of year though.
In my earlier post on Excursions from Vegas I recommended a drive through Death Valley which really isn’t that far away. It should take you a little over two hours to drive there. Just head up US 95 to Amargosa valley then hang a left on the 373 and you’re there. It’s very well signposted.
Death Valley always blooms just a little every spring. But when conditions are right like they have been this year, with well-spaced rainfall and low winds, the desert becomes carpeted with wildflowers. Rains have been gentle and penetrated deeply into the soil to germinate dormant seeds. The ground warmed slowly, allowing roots to develop. A moist, El Nino weather pattern kept the flowers watered as they grew. Blooms start in the valleys and will work their way up to the tops of the mountains through the spring and early summer making a lovely desert vista.
You know I’m interested in Area 51 and details of how to get there and some of my visits appear on the post Excursions from Vegas.
Exactly what goes on at Area 6 remains a mystery of course but you can read a lot more about it courtesy of my friends at the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Looks like an innocuous little rain cloud in the distance doesn’t it but, in fact, it’s November 1951 and it’s a developing mushroom cloud following the detonation of the first above-ground nuclear bomb. You and the Vegas inhabitants and visitors who lined the rooftops, can see it so clearly because it was set off less than 100 miles from Downtown Vegas.
The Nevada Test Site, now known as the Nevada National Security Site, lies northwest of Las Vegas and was once home to hundreds of atomic blasts in the 1950s and ’60s. Difficult to imagine such testing taking place now so close to a large population centre and in open sight.
Elsewhere on this site I recounted my trips up to the periphery of Area 51 in the much more recent past where, at night, you could catch glimpses of the latest aircraft-mounted laser weaponry as they tested it in the desert night shooting rocks with bright green bursts of light. Not quite the same as watching it from your hotel rooftop though!
How about some more fun facts relating to Vegas, Nevada and the bomb?
The first one was codenamed Able and was detonated on 27th January 1951.
By 1963 the USA had detonated more than 100 such above-ground devices in Nevada.
Underground testing locally continued until 1992.
A town was specially built to house test site workers. It’s called Mercury, it is still managed by the Department of Energy and, sadly, you can’t take an excursion to see it as it’s closed to the public. It sits at the junction of Jackass Flats Road (that’s an address I’d love to have) and Mercury Highway just North of Desert Rock Airport between Indian Springs and where US 95 meets local route 160. An interesting area indeed – Indian Springs being host to Creech Airforce Base and the drone programme.
A craze developed for everything nuclear and it wasn’t long before you could drink an Atomic Cocktail comprising brandy, vodka, champagne and sherry (ugh) which you can still order in some of the more (or should that be less) discerning bars around town.
You may have heard of Yucca Flats, about 40 miles North up the Mercury Highway from Mercury. That was the scene of a test that went badly wrong when the wind direction suddenly changed sending toxic clouds into Eastern Nevada and South Western Utah and leading to the death of many sheep and other livestock.
That’s your lot for now but it’s hardly surprising that Area 51 still retains the lure it does. Read more about it by following this link. Why not combine a tour to Rachel and Area 51 with a trip to Mercury or to its perimeter fence at least?
Also, if you try to look it up on Google Maps see what happens if you try to drop the little yellow man anywhere near the site. For the lazier among you he turns into a flying saucer! Well done Google.
- Comps and Free Stuff
- Different Areas of Las Vegas
- Excursions from Vegas
- Excursions within Vegas
- Foreign Exchange
- Getting about in Vegas
- Getting to Vegas
- Latest News
- Leaving Day
- March Madness 2016
- Not to be confused with…
- Things to do
- When to visit Vegas
- Where to Stay (and Play)