To get a lay of the land, Rachel, sits 115 miles northeast of Las Vegas. It is separated from it by the restricted area around the Nellis Air Force Base Range, of which includes Area 51, S4, Groom Lake , and Papoose Lake . Rachel is located in Lincoln County, Nevada’s High Desert at the southern end of the bowl-shaped, 25-mile-wide Sand Springs Valley, where alfalfa is grown, and cattle raised. Five miles east of Rachel stands Tempiute Mountain, named for the Paiute Indians. The tribe made the mountain area their occasional home, and petroglyphs, arrowheads and artifacts have all been found there. The mountain also contained ore, such as silver, tungsten, mercury, and lead. Due to this, a number of mining camps sprouted up, and today there are remnants of these camps, including: Logan, Crescent, Freiburg, and Groom.
Rachel (then known as “Sandy,” Nevada) became one of the largest of these mining communities, when Union Carbide started mining Tempiute Mountain for its tungsten lode. Because Rachel had access to underground water, as well as private land, it became the prime location for Carbide’s larger-scale work force. For a time, the town thrived, and in 1978, its name was changed to “Rachel,” in honor of Rachel Jones, the first baby born in the community. However, mining life is also boom-or bust, so when the company closed the mine in 1988, Rachel’s fortunes fell with it. At least half the population, which had reached around 100, moved out, leaving only a sea of empty mobile home pads, and a few hardy souls who decided to stay on.
Here’s where it gets really interesting, and it starts with a man named Bob Lazar. In November of 1989, Lazar, a Las Vegas resident, claimed on a Las Vegas TV show that he had worked on a top-secret program at Papoose Lake in the Nellis Testing Range, involving the study of alien spacecraft technology. As you can imagine, media immediately jumped on this story, and it garnered worldwide attention. As a result, on Oct. 1, 1994, “The Larry King Show” brought a crew of 50, to Rachel for a live 2-hour special on TNT. The show began at sun-down, and ran into the night, and was extremely atmospheric. There was a wide range of interesting guests, speaking about their various areas of knowledge or experience with this intriguing subject. It was due to this, as well as continuing media coverage, that the Nevada State Legislature, decided to rename Highway 375 “The Extraterrestrial Highway.”
Rachel Today: Although Rachel is still a tiny town, population-wise, it provides enough mystique to make it a destination point for local and international tourists, alike. Many of the town’s residents work at venues that revolve around the UFO allure in some way. Entering town from the south on The Extraterrestrial Highway, you will find the only gas station/convenience store in town—“The Alien Cowpoke,” and it’s just as fun and funky as its name. Inside, in addition to snacks and drinks, you’ll also find “alien-themed” tee- shirts, toys and souvenirs, as well as a few photo ops with some other-worldly “guests.” Future plans include a destination campground (including RV hookups), and an amphitheater with storytellers and special guest speakers. As you continue on, you’ll find the only restaurant/bar in town- the “Little A’Le’Inn, also a wonderfully atmospheric stop if you’re in the mood to eat, drink, and cool your heels a while.