Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 | 6:30 p.m.
Faultless test site
Location: About 245 miles by car north of Las Vegas; about 85 miles by car northeast of Tonopah, and 95 miles northwest of Rachel. It’s about 14 miles of off-road driving north of Highway 6.
GPS: 38.634223°, -116.216175°
Elevation: 6,118 feet
In the 1960s, after some earth-rattling, window-breaking nuclear tests on the Nevada Test Site, the Atomic Energy Commission started exploring more remote sites. One of those was further north, near a place called Moores Station, which was once a stagecoach stop in the Hot Creek Valley.
The site was on public land, and some older maps don’t show it because it was removed from public use for the tests. The AEC drilled three big holes in which they planned to determine the suitability of the ground. AEC officials were apparently optimistic – they called the first test Faultless.
The test went as planned, at least initially – the nuclear weapon was put down a 3,200-foot hole and it went off on schedule on Jan. 19, 1968. But Faultless didn’t live up to its name. It’s estimated that it produced a 1 megaton blast. Windows reportedly shattered nearly 90 miles away. The ground heaved upward a reported 15 feet, and produced – you guessed it – a major fault.
How big a fault? Well, you can see the drill casing with an AEC plaque on it - the top of it is now about eight feet above the ground; it was at ground level before the test.
Thus endeth the AEC’s testing in that area. The other two sites were abandoned.
In the last decade or so, the Energy Department did remediation work to clean up the site, so as long as you’re not digging or eating the dirt, you shouldn’t have to worry about radiation. Graffiti artists have applied their trade on the drill casing.
If you go: There are a few ways to get to the site, but Hot Creek Road seems to be the favorite. It’s a dirt road, and if you go, be prepared with water, food, extra clothing – it’s still a desert out there. This is all public land. About 11 miles southwest of Hot Creek Road on Highway 6 is a site on the north side of the highway called Base Camp. The fenced site, which straddles a public road that intersects with Highway 6, was created to support the Faultless test. Today, it’s still in use and features a 7,200-foot runway, which is marked as a closed runway. (Some speculate the runway and the camp are used to support operations at Area 51.)
For another off-road excursion, further east on Highway 6 is the turnoff for Lunar Crater, a massive volcanic depression.
On the web:
Here's a PDF from "The Traveler's Guide to Nuclear Weapons" that describes the site.
This is a good write up on a visit, with photos, from the site lazygranch.com.