Dreamland in Tikaboo Valley

The entrance to Groom Lake and the world's most secret Air Base: Area 51

Area 51 is a top-secret military test facility, operated by the US Air Force. It is part of the Nellis Ranges, North of Las Vegas. It is hidden in the mountains around the of Groom dry lake bed near the "Extraterrestrial Highway" 375 and the town of Rachel, the "UFO Capital of the World".

The facility is operated as a detachment of Edwards Air Force Base in California. Several high-tech super-secret planes were developed and tested here, including the U-2, F-117 Stealth Fighter and the SR-71 Blackbird. More recent projects include the rumored high speed high altitude "Aurora", various unmanned planes (UAVs) and a new stealth plane to replace the F-117. Rumors say that the research there also includes Alien technology. Supposedly the remains of the UFO crash near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 were brought here to reverse engineer alien technology.

The name Area 51 originated from old maps from the early 50's, in which the then unused land around Groom Lake was marked as Area 51. The term was officially used from the 60's until the late 80's. Then the name was changed to Air Force Flight Test Center, Detachment 3, or short AFFTC Det. 3, which is still the official designation of the Groom Lake base. However, Area 51 is still commonly used to refer to the base. Other names include Dreamland, Watertown, the Ranch, Paradise Ranch, the Box and several others.

The restricted airspace around Area 51 covers a rectangle of 23 x 25 miles, with Groom dry lake bed in its center. That is an area of 575 square miles, which is commonly referred to as "the Box" by military pilots. In this airspace block, known on air charts as part of airspace R-4808E, overflight restrictions are unlimited (from ground level to space) and continuous (24 hours). Even military pilots on exercise in the Nellis Range are not allowed to overfly this zone. The entire Nellis Ranges, including Area 51, the Tonopah Test Range (TTR), the Nevada Test Site (NTS) and the bombing and gunnery ranges cover an area of 5,200 square miles North of Las Vegas. The Nevada Test Site alone covers about 1,600 square miles, partially contaminated with radiation from nuclear tests.

On Monday 23rd of July 2001 we (Eylard & Monique) mapped our trip from Las Vegas to Death Valley over the "Extraterrestrial Highway" 375 and and visited Tikaboo Valley and Rachel.


View from the Stratosphere Tower hotel where we stayed for two nights.
The 350 meter high tower is the tallest building west of the Mississippi,
the tallest free standing observation tower in the United States, plus the
fifth tallest building in the U.S.

The observation decks offer an incredible panoramic view of the city... and the mountains that obscure Area 51.

A short stop at the South end of Extraterrestrial Highway 375. To get there
from Las Vegas: drive North-East on Interstate 15 toward Salt Lake City and
pass Nellis Air Force base on your right. After the base, take the exit to Highway 93 North. Go North on Highway 93 and pass the small towns of Alamo and Ash Springs. After Ash Springs, go West at the junction and you're on the 375.

Extraterrestrial Highway 375, heading South-West to Hancock Summit.


Hancock Summit on Highway 375 overlooking Tikaboo Valley and Bald Mountain (right).  In the far distance you can see Groom Lake Road which intersects with this road just after the curve on the photo. You'll pass this intersection if you don't know it's there.

Groom Lake Road is a well-maintained, long dirt road through Tikaboo Valley. 
It leads directly to the border of the restricted area around Groom Lake.
Notice the dust trail halfway the road? That's one more reason why there is
no way you can enter this area without being detected.

Looking back you can clearly see our dust trail at 40 MPH. The car rental
company is not going to like this!
As soon as you start driving on Groom Lake Road, the security control tower
high atop Bald Mountain, can see you driving and will observe you by infrared
telescopes and other high-tech stuff. 
Don't worry, the first 22.2 kilometers are still on public land!

The security control tower is on the top of Bald Mountain (right from the
Joshua tree in the middle of the photo) and overlooks the valley.
Also, notice the metallic reflection on the nearby hill slope (left from the
Joshua tree, see the next photo for some more detail). 
It's a car with "Cammo Dudes" who are closely watching our approach.

"Cammo Dudes" are members of a private security firm guarding the Area 51 perimeter and the Groom Lake area. They wear camouflage outfit (hence the
name), are armed with rifles and patrol the border in Ford F150 pickup trucks.
They can usually be seen sitting on top of a hill near the signs at Groom Lake
Road, watching traffic on the road through high-powered binoculars.

The border of the restricted area is marked by a line of orange posts, spaced
about 45 meters apart (one is visible next to the sign at the right). There is no
fence and these posts are sometimes hard to see. There are also signs on
both sides of the road that make it very clear that it is not a good idea to go
any further. If you go beyond this point the Cammo Dudes will most likely
arrest you. There is a road barrier and guard shack about 2.5 kilometers
further down the road around the curve, but it can not be seen from this point.

The numerous, large and threatening signs tells you when you've arrived at the Area 51 border: "Restricted area", "Military installation", "Photography of this area is prohibited" (oops!) and "up to 1 year imprisonment and $5000 fine".
These signs mark the end of our trip into Tikaboo Valley.

An old map of the area, clearly showing Highway 375 (middle right to upper left corner), Tikaboo Valley with Groom Lake Road (in the middle), and the restricted area around Groom Lake (left at the bottom). 

In 1995 another 3,972 acres of land was claimed to create an extra security
buffer zone to prevent public viewing of activities at Groom Lake (White Sides
hills, North of the signs at Groom Lake Road and Freedom Ridge just South of it).

A Landsat Thematic Mapping satellite photo of the area (August 18, 1993).
The red dot in the upper right corner is as far as we got. From there, it's another 25 kilometer to the dry salt bed of Groom Lake. You can clearly see the buildings of Area 51 just South-West of Groom Lake and the two runways across the dry lake (click on the area to zoom in). The second dry lake South from Groom Lake is Papoose Lake. Some people believe that there is an even more secret base called S-4, hidden in the mountain side east of the dry lake just above the delta. Click on the area and decide for yourself what you think of this claim.

A few meters up the hill left from the road (but well within restricted area) two surveillance cameras are watching all our movements. The UHF antenna is directed to a point inside the restricted area near Area 51, while the dish-like antenna points to the radar installation on top of Bald Mountain. The Bald Mountain station, which has line of sight to almost the entire Tikaboo Valley, seems to operate as a relay station for the video signal from the cameras. The UHF antenna could be used to receive remote control signals, or as an auxiliary channel, in case the Bald Mountain station fails.

Use of deadly force authorized
(click image to enlarge the sign I'm pointing at).
GPS position: North 37 21'04.1" West 115 38'48.8"

Parked on one of their favorite observation spots (the hill to the right of the signs by Groom Lake Road, just inside the restricted area) we see a second Cammo jeep watching our movements.

Close-up of the Cammo jeep on the hill.
The Cammo Dudes do not have legal authority outside the restricted area, and in fact have order to avoid contact with people like us.

The second of two cameras near the warning signs, positioned quite visibly on
a hill on the left side of the road. Most of the other cameras are harder to spot.


Dust road, unmarked cars with armed guards in camouflage outfit, threatening
signs, remotely operated cameras, magnetic trip sensors, optical sensors, radar, hidden buildings, runways, restricted land & airspace all in the middle of nowhere and nowhere to be found on maps?
Now does this sound secret or what?

The Area 51 Research Center in nearby Rachel is a private clearinghouse for information about Area 51, government secrecy, certain UFO claims and tourist information on the southern Nevada area. Glenn Campbell started the store and was one of the first serious researchers to delve into the Area 51 lore.

The world-famous Little A'Le'Inn, also in Rachel, known from numerous
TV shows and series (like the X-files) from all over the world.

After our break in Rachel we quickly moved on North to Tonopath, then went back South (rounding Area 51, TTR and NTS) and entered Death Valley National park from the East. Total trip time: over 10 hours!
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