Visit the Nevada Test Site!




Sixty years ago it was known for its above ground testing.  Today, it is a historical site and you can now visit the Nevada Proving Grounds where much of that history was made:

There was a time when a mushroom cloud billowing over the Nevada desert was celebrated as a symbol of American strength — and, about 75 miles southeast in Las Vegas, as a terrific tourist draw.

In the 1950s, casinos threw "dawn parties," where gamblers caroused until a flash signaled the explosion of an atomic bomb at the Nevada Test Site. Tourism boosters promoted the Atomic Cocktail (vodka, brandy, champagne and a dash of sherry) and pinups such as Miss Atomic Blast, who was said to radiate "loveliness instead of deadly atomic particles."

Sixty years after the first atmospheric tests here, the 1,375-square-mile site continues to be a tourist magnet, though of a far different nature. Thousands of people each year sign up months in advance to see what is essentially a radioactive ghost town.

The tourists ride in an air-conditioned bus through part of the site, but it might as well be a time machine. The era feted is one of Soviet bad guys, grade-school air raid drills and warnings delivered in capital letters: Visitors are welcomed by the sign ACCESS LIMITED.

There's no mention of the thousands of "downwinders" poisoned by radiation, or the 1.6 trillion gallons of water under the site that have been contaminated. In videos, the end of testing in 1992 is spoken of in near-mournful tones. The tour's intent, said spokesman Darwin Morgan, is to explain what unfolded on the site, not the fallout from it.

Today, 1,000 or so employees — down from the 10,000 who once worked here — mainly carry out less exotic tasks: training first responders, burying toxic waste. The tours wend through these areas, but the bomb refuse remains the star attraction.

The outing has changed little since it was launched in the 1980s, when the tour was sometimes canceled due to "program activities" (as in, explosions).

That may explain its rigidity, beginning with the packet each tour-goer is mailed. No cameras, it said. Or cellphones, BlackBerrys, binoculars, laptops or recorders. If contraband is discovered, THE TOUR MAY BE TERMINATED.

One morning last month, a tour bus departed about 8 a.m. from Las Vegas for the 90-minute drive to the site. En route tourists watched a low-budget video, which included a shot of a human arm disappearing into the side of a steer.

Four test site steers were "fistulated," or given a surgical opening so scientists could reach in to take samples from their stomachs. One of them, named Big Sam, often appeared at fairs.

When the bus pulled up to what is now called the Nevada National Security Site, guide John Robson pointed out two pens where protesters had been detained. They resembled the pens out at bomb sites where pigs had been corralled to test the effects of radiation.

Robson, a retired test site engineer, stepped off the bus to grab some paperwork. "Several of the places we go want records of who's been there," he said. Then a guard in desert fatigues walked through the bus to check tourists' badges. He was armed.

For more on the story:


Photo credit:  Life Magazine


Sixty Years Ago


On January 27th,1951 the first above-ground atomic bomb was tested on American soil at the Nevada Proving Ground (aka the Nevada Test Site).  Prior to that, atomic testing had been at the Bikini Atoll out in the south Pacific.  But for a variety of reasons, the Atomic Energy Commission decided to bring the testing closer to home and Frenchman's Flat in southern Nevada, was chosen for the site.

The atomic age brought an influx of scientists and workers into Las Vegas.  They became members of the community and raised their families here.  However, unlike others, they could not talk about their jobs. 

As part of the Classic Las Vegas history project, we did video histories with a wide swath of long-time and native born residents who had lived in Las Vegas for more than thirty years.  We included Al O'Donnell, who came to Las Vegas as an atomic scientist in 1950, Marie McMillan who worked for EG&G at the Test Site, Don English who photographed the bomb blasts throughout the 1950s for the Las Vegas News Bureau and numerous residents who, as children, had been wakened by their parents in the wee hours of the morning to watch the blasts.

Sen. Richard Bryan, who was a teen at Las Vegas High School remembered the school's yearbook had a bomb blast on its cover (and that can be seen in his class' Senior Square at the front of the old high school).  John Ullom remembered being on Fremont Street and feeling the bomb blast and just thinking "oh, must be another test."  Carey Burke remembered one bomb blast where the shockwave broke the plate glass windows of downtown department store.  Emmett Sullivan remembered being invited out to the Test Site to see a bomb blast and recalled "it was all the colors of the rainbow."

Don English, above, remembered how difficult it was to photograph the blasts while wearing the googles that protected his eyes from the searing white light.  One morning he overslept and did not have time to get to News Nob.  He hurried downtown as he figured he could get the shot from atop one of the buildings.

The photo he took that morning made the cover of Life Magazine.

If you are, like me, of a certain age, atomic testing (both above-ground and below-ground testing) was part of growing up in Las Vegas.  My elementary school, Rose Warren in Charleston Heights, had an air-raid signal on the roof.  It was tested every Saturday morning at noon.  If it went off at any other time, we were taught to duck and cover.

I remember one blast (below ground) that was so strong that it broke the display window at Woolco on West Charleston (where Walmart is today).

What memories do you have of the Test Site and atomic testing?


FYI, want to learn more atomic testing and Las Vegas?  Many of those we interviewed are featured in our DVD "The Story of Classic Las Vegas" talking about that era.


Upcoming Cultural Events in Las Vegas this week and one that's not!

Looking for the UPDATED info on the upcoming Las Vegas High School program?  Click here


Yes, Las Vegas has culture.  You know that.  I know that.  It's not a myth.

Here's some of the cultural events happening in the Las Vegas Valley this week:

“The Wall That Heals,” a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will return to Mesquite, Nevada, Feb. 25 – March 1. The City of Mesquite first hosted the wall nearly five years ago.

Located on the grounds of the City of Mesquite Recreation Center, the exhibit will feature the replica wall, stretching nearly 250 feet in length and containing the names of more than 58,000 men and women who died while serving the U.S. Armed Forces in the Vietnam War.  The exhibit also includes a museum and information center, providing a comprehensive educational component to enrich and complete the visitor experience.

“We are honored to have been asked by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to host “The Wall That Heals” once again,” said Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck. “Mesquite is home to more than a thousand veterans. It’s a very moving experience to be able to bring this message of healing to many who would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience the power of the memorial in Washington, D.C.”

Since its dedication in 1996, “The Wall That Heals” has visited more than 300 cities and towns throughout the nation, spreading the memorial’s healing legacy to millions and educating young people about the Vietnam War.

On Wednesday, Feb. 24, a motorcycle escort from the Patriot Guard of Nevada will accompany the truck containing the replica wall from St. George, Utah to Mesquite. The Wall will be available for visitors 24 hours a day from 7 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25 through 6 a.m. on Monday, March 1. Each evening at 5 p.m. names will be read from the wall. The names selected are those who began their military service from Southern Nevada and Southern Utah, and those who have relatives currently living in the Virgin and Moapa Valleys. Daily formal ceremonies are free and open to the public:

·         Opening Ceremony – Thursday, Feb. 25 at 10 a.m.

·         Service of Prayer and Reconciliation – Friday, Feb. 26 at 10 a.m.

·         Southern Paiute Veterans Ceremony – Saturday, Feb. 27 at 1 p.m.

·         Closing Ceremony – Sunday, Feb. 28 at 3 p.m.

The 2010 visit of “The Wall That Heals” is sponsored by Greg Lee of the Eureka Hotel & Casino with the assistance of the City of Mesquite, the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 993, local volunteers, the Traveling Wall committee and the local business community.




On February 27, 2010 at 1:00 p.m., the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation (NTSHF) will mark the Fifth Anniversary of the Atomic Testing Museum (ATM).

On this day, we will be dedicating two artifacts from the World Trade Center, which is one of the biggest events the Foundation has ever planned. To date, we are still seeking sponsors to meet our goal of raising $50,000 for these events.

Thus far, we have raised $38,000. As your support in the past has helped sustain the many events and projects the NTSHF/ATM has offered its members and the public, once again, we are appealing to your generous support, especially for the dedication of the WTC artifacts and the development of the permanent exhibits for these pieces.

To donate contact Dawn Barlow at 702-794-5147 or
 Donate to the Museum

To make a reservation to witness a memorable event honoring our fellow citizens and heroes who lost their lives during the World Trade Center attack, click Reserve.

We look forward to seeing you on February 27th at the Museum.

Thank you in advance for your support.


The Smith Center for the Performing Arts gets one step closer to opening its doors as it celebrates the “topping out” of Reynolds Hall, reaching its highest point of 170 feet. The ceremony will begin with a live performance down City Parkway by Clark High School Marching Band and will culminate with the raising of the final steel beam, topping out construction for this monumental project. 


Guests in attendance will have the opportunity to sign the final steel beam before it is put in place, becoming a part of The Smith Center’s history. Immediately following the ceremony, tours of The Smith Center will be available. 


WHO:             Myron G. Martin, President & CEO

Donald D. Snyder, Chairman of the Board

Oscar B. Goodman, Mayor of Las Vegas

Mr. Fred W. Smith, Chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation

Clark High School Marching Band


WHEN:           Thursday, February 25, 2010

                         2:45 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.



WHERE:        The Smith Center for the Performing Arts Construction Site

Entrance to the construction site is available from Clark Avenue, located on Grand Central Parkway, just north of Bonneville Avenue.


If you have any footage that you have shot of UFOs, aliens, mysterious creatures or other unexplained phenomena, please contact me immediately. We have a budget so WE CAN PAY YOU, and the better the clip the better the $.

Thanks in advance for your help and look forward to seeing your clips ASAP!


David Ballard

P.S. -- Even if you're not sure what is on the footage, we want to see it! (Part of show is debunking hoaxed/fake clips.)

Email me here if you want Mr. Ballard's contact info.