To continue last week’s post about White Sand Dunes National Monument, I want to talk about another attraction just a few miles down the highway from White Sands. After going out of the park and traveling west, there is a sign that says something along the lines of “Missile Area. Gates closed when testing is in process”. They will literally close the highway (and the park) when testing missiles. Being an area with missile technology, the government has collected some old missiles and made a little park where visitors can come and look at the missiles that used to be used in warfare.
To get to the missile range from the east, take US-70/US-82 southwest about 45 miles from the town of Alamogordo, New Mexico. Look for a brown sign that says, “Museum – Missile Park” and exit right. Drive approximately 4 miles to the Main Gate at the White Sands Missile Range.
If you’re coming from the west, take US-70/US-82 east for about 19 miles from Las Cruces, New Mexico. You will see a brown sign that says “Museum – Missile Park” (don’t be confused by the NASA attraction). Exit right and drive approximately 4 miles to the Main Gate at the White Sands Missile Range.
To get into the area where the missiles are, you will have to go through a guard station. Park in the parking area across from the visitor center (guard station) just before the Main Gate, and go inside the visitor center. You must show your drivers license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance before you can enter the park. After you have given sufficient proof, you will be given a red card to display in the windshield of your vehicle.
From here, you have two choices. You can either drive your vehicle through the Main Gate, and park in the museum/missile park parking area, or you can leave your vehicle parked in the visitor center parking lot and walk over to the missile park and museum, approximately 75 yards away. We decided to leave our vehicle and walk through the gate and into the park.
The park itself is open 7 days a week, dawn to dark. The museum is open 8am to 4pm on weekdays, and 10am to 3pm on weekends; closed holidays. I believe that the park is wheelchair accessible.
First, there’s the missile park. Here a paved pathway wanders its way through a maze of missiles, the latest of which dates from the 1990s (gulf war technology—you wouldn’t expect them to have their newest-latest-greatest sitting there for almost anyone to look at). My father really enjoyed this, as he was almost employed at this missile base many years ago to work on missiles like these. He could point out to us the nuances of the industrial design of the missiles. Small signs tell the age and use of each of the missiles.
There are also two other buildings, one of which houses a huge missile. The other is a museum with more information about the missiles, missile technology, and history. It would be a paradise for someone who knew about these types of things, but I was sort of at a loss because I’m not a real missile/war technology fan. Others of my group, though, really enjoyed this place. There is also a gift shop with local crafts and goods featuring the missile range logo.
One of the great things about the park is that there’s no admission fee. It’s run by the government, so just like the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC it doesn’t cost to get in. The employees work at the missile base, so they don’t really have any extra costs in that arena, which is why they can afford to not charge admission fees. Also, it’s good PR: This is how we’re protecting you!