Arco, Idaho: Its Totally Nuclear, Man!

Anytime we pass through small towns across the United States, we do a little Google search so we can see what they’re all about. When we passed Arco, Idaho also known as Atomic City, we were amazed by Arco’s significance. And, though there’s a whole lot of nothing out there, it surely made us raise our eyebrows. Let’s just say that they do a whole lot of ‘testing’ there!!

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Always On Liberty - Arco Idaho

Arco, Idaho: Its Totally Nuclear, Man!

Arco, Idaho, also known as Atomic City, has its own notoriety with an equal sense of humor.

So, not only enriching our minds by Googling these small pass-through towns, we just want to be prepared in case Jeopardy calls us to be contestants. Or, at the very least, we can appear really smart and know the winning question.

So, Alex Trebeck would read, “the answer is the first city in the world to be lit by atomic power.”

Question:  “What is ARCO, IDAHO”

Alex: Correct!

Our Visit to Arco, Idaho

As we were making our way north up the Salmon River, we stopped for a couple overnights in the small town of Arco, Idaho.

It’s a quirky little town all of its’ own. It’s kind of lost in time in a historical sense. And, with a population of only 900some, it’s no wonder 99.99999% of Americans probably never even heard of the place.

Anyways, we stayed at the small KOA Craters of the Moon Campground so we could tour this notorious little town.

About Arco, Idaho

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - Atomic History

Because I can’t quite put into scientific yet easy-to-understand words, I’ll leave that up to Wikipedia:

“Arco was the first community in the world ever to be lit by electricity generated solely by nuclear power. This occurred for about an hour on July 17, 1955, powered by Argonne National Laboratory’s BORAX-III reactor at the nearby National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS), which eventually became the site of the Idaho National Energy Laboratory, a predecessor of the current Idaho National Laboratory. NRTS made further history on January 3, 1961, when the SL-1 reactor melted down, causing three deaths. It was the world’s first (and the U.S.’ only) fatal reactor accident.”

You can read more about Arco, Idaho HERE

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - Experiment Sign

Now, I don’t know what all that means, but it sure raised the hair on the backs of our necks and perhaps think twice about drinking the water there.

Don’t drink the water!!!

Ironically, upon checking in at the KOA in Arco, we were told to not waste our time hooking up our hose to the water hookup. In fact, we were sternly told “DON’T DRINK THE WATER! Arco water department had been shut off for some unspecified reason.

Well, if THAT wasn’t a weird coincidence and where we were! 

So, Dan ran down to the Dollar General, because in Arco, population of only 995, there IS no Walmart or grocery store to buy bottled water. Dan came back with only one gallon jug because they were all sold out. Why does this stuff always happen to us?

The following day, we finally did get the okay to hook the water up but we were still leery after catching up on everything about Arco and that nuclear stuffSo, we rationed our prized bottle of fresh spring water. I guess this was our first lesson as new RVers to always have at least a third to a half tank of water in our RV…always! And this is why.

Exploring Arco

Aside from what we learned about Arco being some experimental sci-fi map dot, it really is an interesting town.

Since I’m a sunset picture taker, I begged Captain Dan to go find a good place to get our first Idaho sunset photos. Just five miles outside of Arco, we found this beautiful landscape to park the truck and take in the evening view.

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - Farmland

And while I was taking photos, I just had to snap one of the Captain watching the sun go over the horizon.

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - Dan

We headed back to our fifth wheel for a good night’s sleep. It seemed like forever since we were able to sleep with the windows open. But I admit, it got a bit chilly but who’s complaining after bearing the Texas and Arizona heat we just endured previously.

Arco Veteran’s Park

The next day while exploring the town, we happened upon their Veteran’s Park. However, we were a bit dismayed and peeved at the same time.

Seemingly, they forgot something. Do you not see what we didn’t see.

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - Military Veterans Park Flags

Well, if you didn’t, let me explain. There’s Old Glory, the POW/MIA flag, Idaho state flag, Army flag, Navy flag, Marine Corps flag, Air Force flag and a Support the Troops flag with those four branches.

Wait one! Did I mention FOUR branches? I guess in Arco, Idaho, they’ve never heard of the Coast Guard.

So, after rolling our eyes (we’re used to it), we made way over to a cool submarine display.

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - 666 Submarine

Now, since I’ve already been full of questions about Arco, riddle me this Batman. How on earth, did they get a submarine in Arco, Idaho? But, I guess thee bigger question is “couldn’t the Navy come up with a different number than 666?”

Isn’t it kind of ironic or coincidence that that sub number is here. It’s almost like they have their own kind of voodoo here with experiment signs, nuclear stuff, missing the Coast Guard flag, and now 666?

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - 666 Submarine 2

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - Submarine

On a nice note, we thought Arco’s Veteran’s Park was respectfully displayed with also this submarine nuclear notoriety.

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - USS S-27 Submarine Memorial

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - Veterans Park Flags

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - Military Veterans Park WWII Sign

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - USS S-27 Submarine Torpedo

The Atomic Burger!

After finishing up our tour of the Veteran’s Park, we walked to the Pickles diner across the street because they had advertised their infamous ‘Atomic Burger’.

However, that didn’t end well for Dan. He got sick not 20 minutes later with his own Atomic Blast! It had to be some experimental specimen of so-called meat in his burger? Maybe? Anyway, we had to head back to our RV because his gut was telling him to. It was time to call it a day anyways.

Touring more of Arco

By morning Dan felt his spry and back to his old self again. So, off we went to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.

On our way out of town, we noticed this big hill that has all these numbers painted on it. And of course, we had Googled that too. It’s called Graduation Mountain or oftentimes referred to by the locals as  Numbers Hill. The numbers are actually painted by each graduating class from Arco. See? Another piece of useless trivia when Jeopardy calls us!

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - Numbers Hill - Graduation Mountain

Our two-night stay in Arco was actually quite cool.  It’s more than just a map dot. The town’s people are quite proud of their notoriety and we can see why.

Always On Liberty - Arco - Idaho - On the Road

While we were in Arco, we also visited:

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve!  



Disclaimer: We were compensated with product to review this product. However, this compensation in no way reflects our honest review. 

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