"Area 51" is a block of government land about 95 miles north of Las Vegas. It is surrounded by the Nevada Test Site and the Nellis Air Force Range. The name "Area 51" supposedly came from a designation appearing on an old map of the Nevada Test Site. Inside Area 51 is a large Air Force base, near the shore of Groom Dry Lake, that the government does not publicly acknowledge. The airspace around the base is off-limits even to most military pilots and is referred to on aviation frequencies as "Dreamland."
The base at Groom Lake has traditionally been America's testing ground for the latest generation of secret aircraft. The U-2, A- 12, SR-71 and F-117A were flight tested here long before being made public. Since the government won't acknowledge anything about the base, it's hard to be know what is going on there now. Common rumors suggest two possible new aircraft, an ultra-high speed spy plane known as "Aurora" and a smaller version of the B-2 which purportedly might replace the F-117A. Most projects at Groom are probably more mundane, though, and of interest only to hard-core military buffs.
This area has long been rich in UFO lore. Whatever you can imagine--captured aliens, underground bases, alien-government collusion--it's all been claimed at Groom Lake. One of the more restrained and interesting stories is the claim by a Las Vegan, Bob Lazar, that he worked with extraterrestrial flying saucers at an installation at Papoose Lake, south of Groom Lake, in an area he calls "S-4." He says he helped "reverse engineer" one of the craft, but that he saw no aliens himself. There seems to be no way to confirm or directly refute this claim.
Since Lazar first made his claims in a locally televised interview, many tourists have been coming to the public lands closest to the base to try to catch glimpses of alien craft in flight. Many believe that they have seen UFOs here, but there are so many UFO-like natural and military phenomena on display here that its hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Many people have lived in this area all their lives and never seen a UFO. It is important to note that there is a difference between the claim that the government has alien spacecraft in its possession and the claim that you can come here to see flying saucers in flight. In general, the second claim is less credible.
About 130 miles from Las Vegas, at Mile Marker LN 29.5 on remote Nevada Highway 375, is a lone mailbox used by a local rancher. Since this "Black Mailbox" is the only landmark on this stretch of the highway, this is where the true believers come. Many visitors claim to have seen flying saucer here, although the rancher himself claims to have seen none. There is a lot of intense military war games activity in this area that produces a lot of flares and other interesting lights in the sky--great "UFOs" if you want to see them.
There used to be two viewpoints on public land close to the border--White Sides and Freedom Ridge--where a visitor could legally view the secret Air Force base. These areas were closed by the Air Force in April 1995. You can still see the base from a distant mountain, Tikaboo Peak, but it requires a strenous 1-1/2 hour hike from a remote dirt road.
That's the nickname for the anonymous private security force that patrols the military border. They wear camouflage fatigues without insignia and drive white Jeep Cherokees with government plates. They keep close watch on any visitors that come within a few miles of the border, but they are under orders to avoid contact.
The greatest danger is wandering across the unfenced military border, which would result in your immediate arrest and a fine of up to $600. Wherever a road crosses the border, it is marked by clear "Restricted Area" signs which should not be crossed. In the desert, the border is marked by orange posts every 50 yards. It is unwise to hike near the border at night because the posts become invisible.
Another major danger, when driving, is getting stuck on an remote, unmaintained dirt road that your vehicle cannot handle.
"The Area 51 Viewer's Guide," a 115-page, self-published book by Glenn Campbell, offers general information, a reference list, maps and practical advice for visitors. It is advisable to obtain this guide before you come so that you can be adequately prepared. The cost is $15 plus $4 Priority Mail postage (US), ordered from: Secrecy Oversight Council, HCR Box 38, Rachel, NV 89001. A catalog of other publications is available upon request.
Breaking news is reported in a newsletter, "The Groom Lake Desert Rat," which is available free by email or for $15 per 10 issues by regular mail. Send your request to the address above or [email protected].