If you find yourself taking a road trip from Reno to Las Vegas Nevada, there’s a neat roadside attraction in the small Nevada town of Hawthorne that’s worth a look. Located on HWY 95 about 2 hours south of Reno, Hawthorne, NV is home to the Hawthorne Army Depot and a great little roadside pitstop, The Hawthorne Ordnance Museum. Staffed by veterans and other local volunteers, the museum showcases decades of historical munitions, in addition to other pieces of military history. It’s a great stop off for anyone with a taste for military or weapons history.
As with most roadside attractions, we didn’t really plan on stopping at the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum, heck we didn’t even know it existed until we stumbled into it. We were taking our road trip from Reno, NV to Las Vegas, NV along Highway 95 when we started to see lots of contrails criss crossing the sky. It’s usually the first sign that you are entering an area with a large military base or military activity.
At first we thought we were going to drive by one of the many bases and other military facilities that are in the Nevada desert. They are usually nondescript areas that do as much as possible to not be noticed. Then we stared driving by some “unique” roadside artwork.
After seeing some of the public art along the roadside, made of various parts of discarded munitions, we did some quick “Googling” to figure out what was going on. We then found out we were driving by what is now known as the Hawthorne Army Depot. Originally the facility was known as the US Navy Ammunition Depot at Hawthorne Nevada when it was commissioned in late 1930. Over the years the facility has been used for various purposes, all relating to the manufacture, staging, and storing of armaments and munitions for various branches of the US Military. It finally ended up in the Army’s hands in the 1970’s and stopped munitions production in the mid-nineties. The depot is billed as the “Worlds Largest Munitions Depot” and is still quite active today. Just down the road from the depot, and a slight turn off of Highway 95, is the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum. Here you can find all kinds of tidbits of information about the depot and take a look at some cool pieces of history. If you’re planning on visiting this roadside attraction, make a right on HWy 839 in Hawthorne and when you see the guns on the roadside, you’ll know you found the right place.
The museum is staffed by volunteers in the community and is open from about 10Am-4PM on most days. If you arrive at a different time though, they have a friendly sign on the door inviting you to call one of their curators to cheerfully let you in. We spent a good amount of time out in front of the museum enjoying their attractions all along the roadside.
When we decided to finally enter the museum we found our second surprise of the day: free admission! Yup, you can check this roadside attraction out completely free! Once inside, we were floored with just how much stuff was on display. They had a really cool display of WWI and WWII era armaments and other antiques.
In addition to many pieces from the Vietnam era.
One of the coolest things to see, were all the Naval artillery shells and torpedo heads. Those things are huge!
After perusing the displays, we finally asked the volunteer where all this stuff came from. All of the weapons and munitions on display have been decommissioned from military service and are currently inert. Periodically the US military will disarm old weapons that are considered obsolete and will allow surplus vendors and museums purchase the remaining equipment at scrap pricing. Thanks to this practice we get to take a stroll through US Military history. While the museum does offer free tours they do accept donations along with purchases at a small gift shop, to support their operation.
You’ll find all the pictures from our visit to the museum in the Gallery below.
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