Groom Lake 2000 Trip Report

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Note: This article is starting to show its age, and is mostly an historical account.

"Groom Lake", "The Ranch", "Area 51", and "Dreamland" are all names that have been associated with the Groom Lake facility in the Nevada desert. Many people associate Groom Lake with extraterrestrial happenings, which is what gives Nevada's Highway 375 the title "The Extraterrestrial Highway."

What currently goes on at Groom Lake no one can verify. However, we do know that the base is an Air Force testing site where all of the government's state-of-the-art technology is tested. Groom Lake is a place where many of the USAF's top secret military aircraft were tested within the past 50 years, some more important achievements of which include the U-2, A-12, F-117, and B-2.

My attraction to Groom Lake derives from my fascination with the A-12 family of aircraft (A-12, YF-12, and SR-71). As you know from visiting this web site, I have great interest in the SR-71 and its predecessor, the A-12. The A-12 was tested out of Groom Lake and first flew on 26 April 1962. Groom Lake is a unique place because its existence had been denied by the government and the contractors who are associated with the facility for nearly 50 years. They officially acknowledged that there is a base on the Nellis Range in 1995.

I went out to Groom Lake on 12 July 2000 and observed what looked to be a normal day at Groom Lake. It is very desolate when you drive to Groom Lake and if you are considering driving there from the south, road conditions are excellent due to road construction on State Rd. 93 (they were laying asphalt while I was there so in at least one point, construction will tie you up until they complete the job). From Las Vegas, it takes approximately two hours to drive to Groom Lake, possibly less, depending on how many trips that you have made it that way. The base is about 80 miles north as the crow flies from Las Vegas, but it is a much lengthier trip by road (about 130 miles).

When you turn down Groom Lake Road (which is the first left as you are heading around the bend that takes you through the mountains on Highway 375 as the road curves from West to North), there are no road signs, no "This way to Groom Lake!" signs, or any other kind of indication that a top secret base is lurking out behind the mountains past Tikaboo Valley. Groom Lake Road is a gravel road, so only take your car if you do not mind getting it all dusty/dirty as well as a few stone chips. Additionally, it is 13 miles long, and a 13 mile gravel road where you can safely travel at only 30 miles per hour at the most makes it feel like a road that never ends.

After traveling 13 miles through Tikaboo Valley, with no sign of life or the famous signs, you turn a corner to the right and there they are! When you get to the warning signs, which are clearly the end of the road unless you are crazy enough to make a mad dash to the dry lakebed, get out and observe one of the strangest military installation in the world. Groom Lake security on the nearby hills, often referred to as "Cammo Dudes," may be in white Jeep Cherokees or Ford F150 pickups. I saw a Ford F150 monitoring us on the tallest hill on the left side of Groom Lake Road, just to the left of the camera. The camera was also very interesting. It has been said that the security there is so sophisticated that it has the ability to smell you coming. Although, the Cammo Dudes would have no trouble seeing you coming down Groom Lake Road with the dust storm behind you. It is also said that there is a pulse wire that runs under the road to "feel" you coming across the line.

If you read the signs, you will discover that they mean business! However some of their signs do not match up. The larger white background warning sign claims that the punishment for trespassing on the Nellis Bombing and Gunnery Range is up to one year imprisonment and $5,000 fine. The other smaller, red background warning sign claims that the maximum punishment is $1,000 fine, six months imprisonment, or both. This discrepancy makes it look like the Air Force just grabbed some signs that looked threatening and did not bother to post clear information. As to why the Air Force did this, it is not known.

Another area of interest is the EG&G terminal on the Northwest corner of McCarran International Airport. Every weekday morning, about 500 people arrive at the guarded terminal with one destination, Groom Lake. When I was in Las Vegas observing the activity of the EG&G terminal, I counted six EG&G owned 737-200s. The aircraft are easily identifiable; they are white with a red strip running the total length of the plane. They fly out to Groom Lake about every half hour in the morning but things slow down in the afternoon with about two to three aircraft always sitting outside. Starting in the late afternoon (I noticed one coming in at 2:30 PM), the 737s start coming back to Las Vegas. At about 6:00, all of the aircraft (6 of which I counted, there could be more) were back to the EG&G facility for the night. Below are the photos that I took when I was out to Groom Lake and observing the EG&G terminal.