Los Alamos, New Mexico

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Los Alamos, New Mexico
View from Camp May Trail
View from Camp May Trail
Location of Los Alamos, New Mexico
Location of Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico is located in USA
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Location in the 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
County Los Alamos
 • Total 10.9 sq mi (28.1 km2)
 • Land 10.9 sq mi (28.1 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 7,320 ft (2,231 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 12,019
 • Density 1,102/sq mi (427.7/km2)
Time zone Mountain (MST) (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6)
ZIP codes 87544-87545
Area code(s) 505
FIPS code 35-42320
GNIS feature ID 0901357
Eastern entrance to Los Alamos (former town gate site). Results of the Cerro Grande forest fire can be seen in the background.
A view of Ashley Pond, towards the center of town, located just across the street from Fuller Lodge.

Los Alamos (Spanish: Los Álamos, meaning "The Cottonwoods") is a townsite and census-designated place (CDP) in Los Alamos County, New Mexico, United States, built on the Pajarito Plateau's four mesas and the adjoining White Rock Canyon. The CDP population was 12,019 at the 2010 Census. The townsite or "the hill" is one part of town while White Rock is also part. Technically, both are parts of the same incorporated city/county.

Los Alamos is home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, established in 1943 for the Manhattan Project. Previously, the site was occupied by the Los Alamos Ranch School.

Los Alamos County is an incorporated county, and many county offices are located at the Los Alamos townsite. Los Alamos has a county council of seven elected members with either three or four persons elected every two years to four-year terms. The council elects a chairman and vice-chairman. Los Alamos High School is the public high school of Los Alamos County.

Los Alamos is the fifth-fastest growing city in New Mexico, after Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Las Cruces, and Ruidoso.[citation needed] Los Alamos has the highest millionaire concentration of any US city with 12.4 percent of households having at least $1 million in assets.[1]


Los Alamos is built on the Pajarito Plateau between White Rock Canyon and the Valles Caldera, part of the Jemez Mountains. The Jemez Mountains are predominantly formed by the 18.7 Ma to ~50 ka Jemez volcanic field. Volcanic activity in the Jemez Mountains culminated with the formation of two geographically coincident calderas, the 1.61 Ma Toledo caldera and 1.25 Ma Valles caldera, both of which lie to the west.[2]

The first settlers on the plateau are thought to be Keres speaking Indians 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. Both the Keres and Tewa towns can be seen today in the ruins of Bandelier National Monument and Tsankawi.

The land of the plateau was then divided up for homesteading. Most residents of the plateau built simple log cabins that they only lived in during warm weather to feed livestock, with the homesteaders moving down to the warmer Rio Grande Valley. Homesteader Harold H. Brook sold part of his land and buildings to Detroit businessman Ashley Pond II in 1917 which began the Los Alamos Ranch School, named after the aspen trees that blossomed in the spring.

In 1942, during World War II, the Department of War began looking for a remote location for the Manhattan Project. The school was closed when the government used its power of eminent domain to take over the Ranch School and all the remaining homestead that same year. The Ranch School was paid $225 per acre; the homesteaders were paid between $7 and $15 per acre. All information about the town was highly classified until the bombing of Hiroshima.

All incoming truckloads were labeled as common items 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. At the time, it was referred to as "The Hill" by many in Santa Fe, and as "Site Y" by military personnel. The mailing address for all of Los Alamos was PO Box 1663, Santa Fe, NM. After the Manhattan Project was completed, White Rock was abandoned until 1963 when people began to re-inhabit and rebuild new homes and buildings.

Los Alamos National Laboratory was established as a research government facility under the Department of Energy.

In 2000, a 48,000 acre wildfire, Cerro Grande Fire, tore through the townsite after the Park Service lit a prescribed fire in a high wind situation. The town was evacuated for eight days while firefighters from all over the country battled the blaze. Over 400 homes were lost. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) built temporary housing on North Mesa near the Middle School for those who were displaced by the fire. It was nicknamed FEMA-ville. After the fires, there was widespread flooding because of the removal of the groundcover by the fire.

On Monday, June 27, 2011, the Las Conchas Fire broke out in the mountains southwest of the town, prompting a mandatory evacuation from the town and temporary closure of LANL until Sunday. Although Las Conchas was larger than that of the Cerro Grande Fire, no buildings or structures in Los Alamos County were damaged.[3]

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.

Geography and climate[edit]

Los Alamos is located at 35°53′28″N 106°17′52″W / 35.89111°N 106.29778°W / 35.89111; -106.29778 (35.891086, −106.297727),[4] approximately 35 mi (56 km) to the northwest of Santa Fe. Elevation is 7,320 feet (2,230 m).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 10.9 square miles (28 km2), all of it land.

Panorama taken from Los Alamos Hill Road overlook.

The town of Los Alamos is divided up across four mesas—Barranca Mesa, North Mesa, Los Alamos Mesa and South Mesa—along with the connecting communities at the base of the mountain. The Lab also 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. There are three access roads between White Rock and Los Alamos—Main Hill Road, Jemez Road and Pajarito Road. Since 9-11, Pajarito Road has been restricted to LANL badge holders for security reasons.

Los Alamos has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb) with cold though not severe winters and summers with very warm days, cool nights, and frequent monsoonal thunderstorms. Its high altitude moderates summer heat and makes precipitation relatively high (twice as much as Albuquerque) but makes for a short frost-free season, with the last frost usually in May. Snowfall is quite heavy, but very little of it lies on the ground for long, with the median cover in January being 4 inches (0.10 m) and the highest monthly mean 14 inches (0.36 m) in February 1993, whilst temperatures below 0 °F (−17.8 °C) are very rare, occurring on an average of two nights annually.

Climate data for Los Alamos, New Mexico (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 65
Average high °F (°C) 39.9
Average low °F (°C) 18.9
Record low °F (°C) −18
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.98
Average snowfall inches (cm) 13.7
Average precipitation days 5.4 6.1 7.2 5.9 7.6 8.0 13.3 15.5 9.4 7.0 5.6 6.2 97.2
Average snowy days 4.5 4.6 4.0 1.7 0.3 0 0 0 0 0.8 2.7 4.9 23.4
Source: NOAA [5]


As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 11,909 people, 5,110 households, and 3,372 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 1,096.2 inhabitants per square mile (423.2/km2). There were 5,463 housing units at an average density of 502.8 per square mile (194.1/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP was 89.13% White, 0.44% African American, 0.56% Native American, 4.47% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.01% from other races, and 2.35% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 12.21% of the population.

The total population of Los Alamos also includes that of White Rock which is made up of about 6050 people and considered part of Los Alamos. White Rock is a housing area of Los Alamos made up of White Rock, La Senda, and Pajarito Acres about 10 miles from the center of the Los Alamos community.

Mesa Library

Los Alamos is New Mexico's best educated community, proportionately, with 68.6% of adult residents (25 and older) holding an associate degree or higher, and 62.1% of adults possessing a bachelor's degree or higher (2000 Census).

There were 5,110 households out of which 31.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.4% were married couples living together, 6.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.0% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 24.8% under the age of 18, 4.8% from 18 to 24, 29.2% from 25 to 44, 28.2% from 45 to 64, and 12.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 101.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.1 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $71,536, and the median income for a family was $86,876. Males had a median income of $65,638 versus $39,352 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $34,240. About 2.4% of families and 3.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.6% of those under age 18 and 5.3% of those age 65 or over. 11.7% of Los Alamos citizens are millionaires, the highest rate in the country.[7]

The home ownership rate (owner-occupied housing units to total units) is 71.5%. After the Manhattan Project, the first sale of a private home in Los Alamos was made in 1965 by the US Government to William Overton, who bought a house on Manhattan Loop.[8]

VLBA node[edit]

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

City and regional partnership[edit]

Los Alamos maintains sister city status with the following international location:

City Country Sister City since
Sarov  Russia 1993


Smoke plume of the Cerro Grande Fire

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Where Millionaires Live in America". Kiplinger. June 2014. 
  2. ^ Kirt Kempter; Shari Kelley; Jamie Gardner; Steve Reneau; David Broxton; Fraser Goff; Alexis Lavine; Claudia Lewis (June 2007). "Geology of the Guaje Mountain Quadrangle, Los Alamos, New Mexico" (PDF). New Mexico Bureau of Geolo gy and Mineral Resource, Open – file Geologic Map OF – GM 55. p. 46. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Las Conchas Wildfire". Incident Information System. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  5. ^ "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2012-02-02. 
  6. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  7. ^ Slide Shows Gallery-Kiplinger. Kiplinger.com. Retrieved on 2013-08-15.
  8. ^ LANL Newsletter 5(24):7, week of November 22, 2004


External links[edit]