Atomic Dreams in Arco, Idaho

Arco, Idaho - First City Lit by Atomic Power

Riding Out the July 4th Holiday in Arco, Idaho

(July 1-6, 2017) From the Salt Lake City area, we moved on to Arco, Idaho, a small town with a rich history, including the proud distinction of being the “First City in the World to be Lit by Atomic Power”. While in Arco we stayed at the Mountain View RV Park, a small, privately owned, well shaded and very nicely maintained campground. We had planned for a week-long stay at Arco but were delayed for two days due to truck repairs in Utah. We contacted the RV park about the delay and the park owner/manager very graciously held our site reservation without charging for the extra days, despite the short notice. We liked having a quiet place to ride out the busy Independence Day holiday weekend and enjoyed watching the town’s and other independent firework displays right from our campground.  

We enjoyed seeing historic old buildings around Arco, as well as historic sites related to the peaceful development of atomic energy – the Atoms for Peace program. Other sights to see in Arco include the USS Hawkbill (SSN-666) nuclear submarine science center, submarine war memorial, and Number Hill – a craggy hill where generations of high school classes have painted their graduation year on the rock outcroppings.

Day-trips to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Sawtooth Mountains

We took several day-trips to nearby Craters of the Moon National Monument and to the Sawtooth Mountains. The Craters of the Moon is an area of starkly beautiful volcanic formations – jagged black lava flows, cinder cones, spatter cones and other formations formed by recent eruptions between 2,000 and 14,000 years ago. The monument and surrounding area have sweeping vistas of sage-brush covered lava barrens and snow-capped mountain peaks.

For our trip into the Sawtooth Mountains, we packed a picnic lunch and took a drive through the ski-resort town of Sun Valley and on to Cathedral Pines where we had lunch by a fast-moving mountain stream. We backtracked to Sun Valley and took unpaved Trail Creek Road to cross a mountain pass and loop back to Arco via US-93. We enjoyed lovely alpine vistas all along the way. Jasmine and Pepper even got to take a dip in a small mountain creek. This is truly beautiful big-sky country.

Day-trip to Atomic City and the nearby EBR-1 Museum

For another day-trip, we drove to Atomic City and the nearby EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor) Atomic Museum. This entire area has a rich history of (non-nuclear) weapons testing, as well as development of nuclear energy and other projects. Sprawling Idaho National Laboratory Industrial and Research Complexes are visible in the distance, as well as a Radioactive Waste Management Complex.

Our visit to Atomic City was brief – this is a small town with few remaining buildings, but does feature a district fire station, bar and racing speedway, as well as some photogenic abandoned buildings.

The EBR-1 Atomic Museum was fascinating to visit as it was the worlds first atomic reactor to power a city, nearby Arco. The many displays evoke an earlier time when the prospect of the peaceful use of atomic energy warranted boundless optimism – all in the shadow of the Cold War and the threat of atomic annihilation. Indeed, some of the massive equipment on display are experimental atomic jet engines originally designed to power huge bombers – along with dreams of interplanetary spacecraft. Again, fascinating!

That’s all for now. Safe travels and enjoy the journey!

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Addendum – Read on (& watch) if you enjoy video games:

The visit to Arco, Atomic City and EBR-1 Museum reminded me of one of my favorite sci-fi role-playing video games – the Fallout series (Fallout 4 & Fallout 3). I really enjoy Fallout’s retro 1950’s graphics and back-story/lore, character development and dark humor, as well as all the abandoned buildings and desolate areas to explore in a post-nuclear war wasteland. (Oh, and don’t forget all the raiders, super-mutants and giant mutated critters to blast, too!) If you enjoy these themes and video games, here are several video trailers to add to the flavor of this post:

Fallout 4 – Official Trailer


Fallout 4 – Intro Cinematic/Opening (Live Action) [1080p]


Fallout 3 – Teaser Trailer (Official)


2 thoughts on “Atomic Dreams in Arco, Idaho

  1. Pingback: Campground Review – Mountain View RV Park – Arco, ID | The Tin Can Chronicles

  2. Pingback: Montana – Part I – Big Skies and Ghost Towns | The Tin Can Chronicles

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