Green River Utah Map

Green River Missile Launch Complex, Green River

Back in June 1997, a hilariously wrong article in Popular Mechanics magazine claimed that this facility located in plain sight along Interstate 70 was going to be the replacement for Nevada’s Area 51. While that report was incorrect, something might be stirring out in eastern Utah.

The Green River Missile Launch Complex is a branch of New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range. From 1964 to 1973, over 140 Athena missiles were launched from here to the main White Sands facility in New Mexico to test new re-entry warhead designs for ballistic missiles. It was also used for test firing of Pershing missiles until 1974. After 1974, the facility was largely abandoned. The recent opening of Interstate 70 near it meant that any future tests would require shutting the highway for hours at a time, and there was concern over debris from failures raining down on environmentally sensitive areas like Canyonlands National Park. The structures at Green River were emptied and began to deteriorate. Soon this facility was forgotten by everyone but a handful of rocketry buffs and aviation historians.

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But that was before the June 1997 issue of Popular Mechanics claimed that Nevada’s Area 51 was being closed and future tests of top secret aircraft (and UFOs??) would be conducted in Utah at Green River. While the article was totally erroneous, it did bring Green River to national attention. (For more details of the Popular Mechanics article, see the listing for “Area 51″ in the NEVADA section.)

What’s There: Visitors to the Green River site in the summer of 1997 found it to be deserted. Ten large structures were still standing, but they were in various stages of deterioration. The main gate was open. Electrical conduits had been ripped open and the wiring removed. Some metal structures, like storage sheds and a radio tower, had collapsed. Concrete foundations of dismantled structures remained. Warning signs had faded, and the roads were in poor condition.

However, there were some improvements made at Green River by early 1998. The roads were improved and new warning signs (including those warning against any photography of the facility) were in place. New fences had been added around several areas and structures. While the facility was still deserted, these changes might indicate Green River is being kept in readiness for possible new uses (perhaps to support activities at Dugway Proving Grounds, as previously described).

Getting a Look Inside: Despite the new security signs and other improvements noted above, the facility was still vacant at the time this book was written. There was no full-time security patrol, although some occasional patrols may be made.

Unusual Fact: The Popular Mechanics article provoked an incredibly sarcastic response (for a government agency) from the White Sands public affairs office: “If you haven’t seen the June (1997) issue of Popular Mechanics magazine, you are missing a fantastic example of voodoo journalism” was the opening sentence of their comments. It then tore apart each of the article’s claims, and concluded, “Somehow Popular Mechanics has gotten away from those old articles on how to change your car’s timing belt or how to build your own patio deck. This story reads almost like something out of the National Enquirer. Heaven help us.”

Getting There: Green River is located parallel to Interstate 70 near the town of Green River. Take exit 162 south from Interstate 70 and turn left at the first intersection.

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