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Los Alamos, New Mexico is known for its role in the development and creation of the atomic bomb, which was the chief objective of the Manhattan Project by the Los Alamos National Laboratory during World War II.

It is the county seat and the largest of two population centers in Los Alamos County, the other being White Rock.

Situated in the Santa Fe National Forest, the town was built on four mesas: Barranca Mesa, North Mesa, Los Alamos Mesa, and South Mesa. The Los Alamos National Laboratory occupies half of South Mesa, Two Mile Mesa, Frijoles Mesa, Mesita de Buey, and other nearby areas.

The land features of Los Alamos, as well as the larger county, were formed through a series of volcanic eruptions about 1.6 million years ago. Around 1150 AD, the Pueblo people began settling the Pajarito Plateau, and ancestors of the current Native American tribes, the Anasazi, inhabited the Los Alamos area between 1150 AD and the 1500s. They planted crops on mesa-top fields and harvested a large range of native plants. In time, perhaps due to changing climate conditions, they moved to settle along the Rio Grande, where they built pueblos.

In the late 1800s, European-American homesteaders began coming into the area. Most of them built simple log cabins that they inhabited only during warm weather to feed livestock, and many of them later moved to the warmer Rio Grande Valley.

In 1917, Harold H. Brook, a homesteader, sold a portion of his land and buildings to Ashley Pond II, an entrepreneur and former Rough Rider. Pond converted the working ranch into the Los Alamos Ranch School, which catered to privileged boys from the East. A natural depression that sometimes filled with water became Ashley Pond.

Twenty-six years later, in 1943, the United States government took the buildings and grounds of the Los Alamos Ranch School, along with the remaining homesteads in the area, to use for the secretive Manhattan Project, which developed the world's first nuclear weapons.

Referred to as Site Y by military personnel, and known as The Hill by nearby Santa Fe residents, the facilities for research and development were built quickly, and scientists and engineers from throughout the world were assigned to the project. It wasn't until after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings that information about the purpose of the Manhattan Project was released to the public.

Following World War II, the laboratory was established as a research facility under the Department of Energy, now known as Los Alamos National Laboratory. LANL is the area's largest employer and the principal source of tax revenue. Approximately forty percent of LANL's employees reside in Los Alamos.

Although unincorporated, Los Alamos is a census-designated place (CDP) for the purpose of the US census. First designated as a CDP for the 1970 census its population has grown from 11,310 in 1970 to 13,179 in 2020. Although it declined slightly in 1980, its population has increased each census year since.

Although more than two thousand sites throughout the county have been determined to have been impacted environmentally as a result of past activities of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the area supports a diverse wildlife population, including black bears, elk, mule deer, bobcats, gray foxes, skunks, and chipmunks, as well as more than two hundred species of birds. In recent years, wildfires have also been frequently experienced, including the Water Canyon Fire (1954), La Mesa Fire (1977), Dome Fire (1996), Oso Complex Fire (1998), Cerro Grande Fire (2000), and Las Conchas Fire (2011), all of them believed to have been caused by human activity.

Area geography supports several sports and recreational activities. A large system of trails within the canyons and mountains caters to running, hiking, and mountain biking, and the Los Alamos' Aquatic Center features an Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool. The Pajarito Mountain Ski Area facilitates skiing between November and April, and the county maintains a refrigerated, NHL-regulation, outdoor ice skating rink on the floor of the Los Alamos Canyon. Weather permitting, the Valles Caldera National Preserve allows for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Los Alamos Public Schools provides a K-12th-grade curriculum through five elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school, and the University of New Mexico has a branch campus in Los Alamos.

Los Alamos is relatively isolated and can be accessed only from NM-4 from the south and NM-502 from the east. Localities within twenty-five miles of Los Alamos include White Rock, Espanola, Nambe Pueblo, La Mesilla, and Mora.

The focus of this portion of our guide is on the census-designated place and community of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Online resources representing the community, businesses, industries, schools, churches, organizations, attractions, or events in Los Alamos are appropriate.


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