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Alamogordo, New Mexico
Alamogordo Tenth Street water tower long shot.jpg
Jim Griggs Sports Complex.JPG
Shops on New York Ave.JPG Water Tower Tenth Street.JPG
Kids' Kingdom Park.JPG View from Thunder Rd.JPG
Downtown Alamogordo, looking West on 10th Street; Jim Griggs Sports Complex; Shops on New York Ave; Water Tower looking East Tenth Street; Kids' Kingdom Park; View of Alamogordo from Thunder Rd.
Location in New Mexico
Location in New Mexico
Country United States
State New Mexico
County Otero
Founded 1898
Incorporated 1912
Named for álamo gordo, Spanish for "fat cottonwood"
 • Type Commission/Manager
 • Total 19.3 sq mi (50.1 km2)
 • Land 19.3 sq mi (50.1 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
4,336 ft (1,322 m)
 • Total 30,403
Time zone UTC-7 (Mountain Standard Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-6 (Mountain Daylight Time)
ZIP codes
88310, 88311 (PO Box)
Area code(s) 575
FIPS code 35-01780
GNIS feature ID 0903054

Alamogordo is the county seat and economic center of Otero County in south-central New Mexico, United States. A city in the Tularosa Basin of the Chihuahuan desert, it is bordered on the east by the Sacramento Mountains and to the west by White Sands National Monument. It is the city nearest to Holloman Air Force Base. The population was 30,403 as of the 2010 census. Alamogordo is known for its connection with the Trinity test, the first explosion of an atomic bomb, and also for the Atari video game burial of 1983.

Humans have lived in the Alamogordo area for at least 11,000 years. The present settlement, established in 1898 to support the construction of the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad, is an early example of a planned community. The city was incorporated in 1912. Tourism became an important economic factor with the creation of White Sands National Monument in 1934. During the 1950-60s, Alamogordo was an unofficial center for research on pilot safety and the developing United States' space program.

Alamogordo is a charter city with a council-manager form of government. City government provides a large number of recreational and leisure facilities for its citizens, including a large park in the center of the city, many smaller parks scattered through the city, a golf course, Alameda Park Zoo, a network of walking paths, Alamogordo Public Library, and a senior citizens' center. Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center is a nonprofit shared military/civilian facility that is also the hospital for Holloman.


Tularosa Basin has been inhabited for at least 11,000 years. There are signs of previous inhabitants in the area such as the Clovis culture, the Folsom culture, the peoples of the Archaic period, and the Formative stage. The Mescalero Apache were already living in the Tularosa Basin when the Spanish came in 1534, and Mescalero oral history says they have always lived there. The Spanish built a chapel at La Luz (about 5 miles (8.0 km) from the future site of Alamogordo) in 1719, although La Luz was not settled until about 1860.

The city of Alamogordo was founded in June 1898, when the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad, headed by Charles Bishop Eddy, extended the railway to the town. Eddy influenced the design of the community, which included large wide thoroughfares and tree-lined irrigation canals. Charles Eddy's brother John Arthur Eddy named the new city Alamogordo ("large/fat cottonwood" in Spanish) after a grove of fat cottonwoods he remembered from the Pecos River area. When Alamogordo was laid out in 1898, the east-west streets were given numerical designations, while north-south streets were named after states. The present-day White Sands Boulevard was then called Pennsylvania Avenue.

Several government buildings in Alamogordo were constructed by the Works Progress Administration, a government program created in 1935 in response to the Great Depression. These include the Otero County Administration Building at 1101 New York Avenue, a Pueblo style building originally constructed as the main U.S. Post Office in 1938. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The main entrance portico features frescoes by Peter Hurd completed in 1942. The Post Office moved out in 1961, and the building was used by a succession of Federal agencies and was known as the Federal Building. The last Federal agency to occupy it was the United States Forest Service who used it as the headquarters of the Lincoln National Forest until October 2008, when that agency moved to a newly constructed building. Ownership of the building was transferred to Otero County government and many government offices were moved from the Courthouse to the new Administration Building in February 2009. Alamogordo briefly made international news in late 2001 when Christ Community Church held a public book burning of books in the Harry Potter series, and several other series, on December 30.


As of 2010, Alamogordo had a total area of 19.3 square miles (50.0 km2), all of it land. The city is located at an elevation of 4,336 feet (1,322 m) on the western flank of the Sacramento Mountains and on the eastern edge of the Tularosa Basin. It lies within the Rio Grande rift and in the northernmost part of the Chihuahuan Desert. Tectonic activity is low in the Tularosa Basin. Plants native to the area are typical of the southern New Mexico foothills and include creosote bush, mesquite, saltbush, cottonwood, desert willow, and many species of cactus and yucca.

The Tularosa Basin is a closed basin, that is, no water flows out of it. Because of this and because of the geology of the region, water in the basin is hard: it has very high total dissolved solids concentrations, in excess of 3,000 mg/l. The Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility, a Bureau of Reclamation laboratory doing research and development on desalination of brackish water, is located in Alamogordo. The gypsum crystals of White Sands National Monument are formed in Lake Lucero. Water drains from the mountains carrying dissolved gypsum and collects in Lake Lucero. After the water dries, the winds pick up the gypsum crystals and distribute them over the basin.


Alamogordo has a cold desert climate (Köppen BWk) bordering on a hot desert climate (BWh) and a semi-arid climate (BSk) with hot summers and mild winters with frequently subfreezing mornings. Rainfall is low and usually confined to the monsoon season from July to September, when half a typical year’s rainfall of 10.96 inches or 278.4 millimetres will occur – although December 1991 did see 5.45 inches or 138.4 millimetres. The wettest calendar year has been 1941 with 21.87 inches or 555.5 millimetres and the driest 1952 with 4.85 inches or 123.2 millimetres, while the wettest month on record has been September 1941 when 6.94 inches or 176.3 millimetres fell. September 1941 also saw the largest daily rainfall at Alamogordo with 2.60 inches or 66.0 millimetres falling on the 22nd of that month.

Temperatures outside of monsoonal storms are very hot during the summer: 94.8 days exceed 90 °F or 32.2 °C and temperatures as high as 110 °F or 43.3 °C occurred on June 22, 1981 and July 8 of 1951. During the winter, days are very mild and sunny, but nights are cold, with 32 °F or 0 °C reached on 73.6 mornings during an average winter, although only seven mornings have ever fallen to or below 0 °F or −17.8 °C, with the coldest temperature recorded at Alamogordo being −14 °F (−25.6 °C) during a major cold wave on January 11, 1962. Snow is very rare, with a mean of no more than 4.1 inches or 0.10 metres and a median very close to zero. The most snowfall in one month was 10.0 inches (0.25 m) in December 1960.

Climate data for Alamogordo, New Mexico. (Elevation 4,380ft)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 76
Average high °F (°C) 56.3
Average low °F (°C) 29.2
Record low °F (°C) −14
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.63
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 inch) 3 3 3 2 3 3 8 8 5 4 3 3 47
Source: The Western Regional Climate Center


Historical population
Census Pop.
1920 2,363
1930 3,096 31.0%
1940 3,950 27.6%
1950 6,783 71.7%
1960 21,723 220.3%
1970 23,035 6.0%
1980 24,024 4.3%
1990 27,596 14.9%
2000 35,582 28.9%
2010 30,403 −14.6%
Est. 2015 30,753 1.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 35,582 people, 13,704 households, and 9,728 families residing in the city. There were 15,920 housing units. The racial makeup of the city was 75.4% White; 5.6% African American, 1.1% Native American, 1.5% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 12.1% from some other race, and 4.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 32.0% of the population.

There were 13,704 households out of which 36.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.6% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.0% were non-families. 25.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.07.

In the city the population was spread out with 28.7% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 97.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.1 males.

In 1999 the median income for a household in the city was $30,928, and the median income for a family was $35,673. Males had a median income of $28,163 versus $18,860 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,662. About 13.2% of families and 16.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.9% of those under age 18 and 11.8% of those age 65 or over.

Alamogordo's and Otero County's July 1, 2008, population were estimated at 35,757 and 62,776 respectively by the United States Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program.

Arts and culture

Alamogordo Flickinger Center for Performing Arts
Flickinger Center for Performing Arts is a venue for concerts and live theater

There are two amateur theatrical groups in Alamogordo. Alamogordo Music Theatre produces two musical productions annually at the Flickinger Center for Performing Arts. The NMSU-A Theatre on the Hill produces an annual spring performance for young audiences at the Rohovec Fine Arts Center on the New Mexico State University at Alamogordo campus, and an annual Fall performance for general audiences.

Annual cultural events

The Earth Day Fair is held annually on the last Saturday in April at Alameda Park Zoo. It features a butterfly release, a science fair, activities for children, and information booths from local health agencies and nonprofits.

Otero County Fair is held annually in early August at the County Fairgrounds at the corner of White Sands Boulevard and Fairgrounds Road in Alamogordo. It features a rodeo, animal judging, food and game booths, and carnival rides. Nonprofit and government agencies set up information booths in the exhibit hall.

The Cottonwood Arts and Crafts Festival is put on each Labor Day Weekend in Alameda Park by the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce. It is primarily a showplace for vendors of handmade items, but also features music, entertainment, and food.

White Sands Balloon Invitational is held annually in late September. Hot air balloons launch from the Riner-Steinhoff Soccerplex on First Street or from White Sands National Monument and float over the Tularosa Basin.

Oktoberfest is celebrated annually in late September, hosted by the German Air Force at Holloman Air Force Base. The public is invited, and shuttle buses run between Alamogordo and the base.

Grave of Ham the Astrochimp
Grave of Ham the Chimp astronaut at the New Mexico Museum of Space History

Visitor attractions

New Mexico Museum of Space History
New Mexico Museum of Space History is a science museum covering space flight

New Mexico Museum of Space History is a state museum with the International Space Hall of Fame.

Flickinger Center for Performing Arts, located at 1110 New York Avenue, is a 590-seat theater created in 1988 from a re-purposed movie theater. It hosts concerts and live theatrical performances by touring groups, and is the venue for the local amateur group Alamogordo Music Theater.

Alamogordo Museum of History (formerly Tularosa Basin Historical Society Museum) collects artifacts related to the history of Alamogordo and the Tularosa Basin. It is a private museum, operated by the Tularosa Basin Historical Society. Among notable items in the collection is a 47-star US Flag; New Mexico was the 47th state admitted to the Union, and US flags were made with 47 stars only for one month, until Arizona was admitted. The Museum shop has a large collection of local history books. The Historical Society also publishes its own series of monographs on local history, Pioneer. The Museum had planned to move from its location at 1301 N. White Sands Boulevard to a historic adobe building at the corner of White Sands Boulevard and Tenth Street by the end of 2008, but as of July 2009 this plan has stalled due to lack of money to renovate the building.

American Armed Forces Museum is a museum on U.S. Route 82 near Florida Avenue that opened in 2011. It collects and displays all kinds of military memorabilia from all wars and military engagements.

The Shroud Exhibit And Museum, located in White Sands Mall, showcases a full-sized back-lit photographic transparency of the Shroud of Turin, a religious relic believed by some to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. They also feature a working VP8 Image Analyzer, the only one in the world where one can walk in and interact with this old analog computer. This town was founded the same year (1898) that Secundo Pia took the first photograph of the Shroud which started the modern investigation into the Shroud. This is highlighted in the museum. In 1977 in Albuquerque, they held the conference that resulted in the 1978 study of the Shroud with more scientists from New Mexico than any other state. The displayed photograph was created from the 1978 photographs made by Barrie M. Schwortz as part of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). The displays include historical background materials, scientific information, kiosks with a variety of information, videos available for viewing and an exhibit of electronic image analysis of the shroud, among other interesting artifacts.

The Alameda Park Zoo, the oldest zoo in the U.S. Southwest, is located in the city. Several Union-Apache battles were fought near Oliver Lee Memorial State Park.

Parks and recreation

Alameda park zoo entrance
The Alameda Park Zoo, located at 10th Street and White Sands Boulevard, specializes in Southwestern animals

Alamogordo has numerous small parks scattered through the city, and a few larger ones. Mentioned here are some of the more notable parks.

Alameda Park is a city park lying on the west side of White Sands Boulevard between Tenth Street and Indian Wells Road. Most of the park is shaded by cottonwood trees. At the south end of the park is Alameda Park Zoo and at the north end is The Toy Train Depot, a railroad and toy train museum.

Washington Park is a city park in the center of town, bounded by Washington and Oregon Avenues and running from First Street to Indian Wells Road. City Hall and several other city buildings are located in the park. At the north end of the park is Kids Kingdom, a children's play area with a giant jungle gym.

There are public athletic fields at the Jim R. Griggs Sports Complex, located at the corner of Florida Avenue and Fairgrounds Road, and the Travis C. Hooser Ballfield Complex (also called Walker Field) located at the corner of U.S. Route 70 and Walker Road.

The Alamogordo Family Recreation Center, at 1100 Oregon Avenue, is a city-owned facility offering a weight room, swimming pool (open year-round), and basketball gym. There are outdoor tennis courts north of the building. The Alamogordo Senior Center is a city facility for senior citizens that provides a social center and an exercise room and serves congregate meals and Meals on Wheels.

Desert Lakes Golf Course Alamogordo club house
The new clubhouse at Desert Lakes Golf Course was constructed in 2007

Desert Lakes Golf Course is a city-owned golf course located at the south end of town on Hamilton Road at Desert Lakes Road. It is an 18-hole course. The clubhouse houses a restaurant and a pro shop. There is a PGA golf pro on duty at the course.

Not inside the city but nearby are several national and state parks. The Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is about 10 miles south on U.S. Route 54, offers camping, hiking, and picnicking. The White Sands National Monument, a U.S. National Monument, is located about 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Alamogordo along U.S. Route 70. The area is in the mountain-ringed Tularosa Basin valley area and comprises the southern part of a 275-square-mile (710 km2) field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. The Lincoln National Forest, whose headquarters are in Alamogordo, is a mountainous area that starts about 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Alamogordo and offers hiking, fishing, and camping. The Sidney Paul Gordon Shooting Range, located about 3 miles (4.8 km) north of town at 19 Rock Cliff Road in La Luz, is a supervised range with rifle, pistol, and archery ranges. Several competitions are held at the range each month.

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