Green River Launch Complex, a sprawling abandoned military installation, and Cold War relic, occupies a vast stretch of barren land in Eastern Utah. From 1964 to 1979, it served as a test facility for Air Force and Army missile programs. Now it languishes beneath the harsh desert sun while scrappers and the elements slowly chip away at its remains.
Long metal conduit boxes that resembled conveyor belts meandered across the hillsides, connecting buildings and underground tunnels. It was a strange and beautiful sight. There wasn’t much left of Green River Launch Complex, but quite a few buildings still remained.
The first place I explored was a reinforced concrete blockhouse, a bunker-like structure that once housed the control equipment for Green River’s Athena Missile Launch Complex.
Green River Launch Complex (also known as Utah Launch Complex, Green River Test Site, Green River Test Complex, and Green River Missile Launching Site) was a sub-installation of White Sands Missile Range, which is located in New Mexico. Established in 1962 as a missile launch site for the ABRES (Advanced Ballistic Re-entry System) program, the Green River base remained active until 1979.
From 1964 to 1975, roughly 244 test launches were carried out, including Pershing and Athena RTV missiles. Over 140 Athena RTV missiles were launched from Green River, achieving altitudes of 300 km and speeds of 6700 m/s, and traveling 450 miles to reach their targets in White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The building was almost entirely stripped and had been heavily ransacked.
I went outside to take a closer look at the conduit boxes. The pipes and wiring that they once contained had been completely removed by scrappers.
I followed one of the conduits to a tunnel that cut through one of the hills.
On the other side, I was greeted by the sight of a tall steel building with a garage-style door that hung halfway open.
The structure was a Temperature Controlled Environmental Enclosure (TCEE), in which the Athena missiles were assembled and prepared for launch. Each TCEE was situated on rails. Just prior to launch, the structure would be rolled away to expose the missile, which was then raised into firing position.
Between the rails outside sat a concrete cylinder, which had once supported a gantry platform. Its hollow center functioned as a conduit and allowed for venting during test launches.
There were several smaller structures nearby, but I’m not sure what functions they served.
This one looked like it could have housed a hobbit or gnome.
As I was exploring, an SUV drove up. I approached with a smile and a friendly wave, hoping I wasn’t about to be kicked off the property. I hadn’t seen any no trespassing signs or anything else to indicate that I wasn’t supposed to be there, but I was still a little nervous.
A man, his wife and their dog got out of the SUV. I introduced myself and he told me his name was Jim too. He had worked at the base in the ’60s and was kind enough to tell me about the various buildings their functions. He comes back to visit the site every few years and finds that fewer structures and equipment remain each time.
He explained that prior to each missile test launch, the equipment had to be balanced at facilities several miles down the road. After balancing, the equipment was driven very carefully and slowly (3-4 miles per hour) to the launch site, making it a very time-consuming process.
After Jim and his wife left, I continued exploring and made a note to check out the facilities he had mentioned down the road.
The box conduits were interrupted by the road at one point, so I took a closer look.
Alongside the road are two cylinders with conical roofs, where the conduits take a brief detour underground. The ladder was very sturdy, so I climbed down.
The short segment of tunnel ran for several dozen feet before leading back up to the surface.
Unfortunately the short length of subterranean conduit was a death trap for rabbits and other creatures. Bones and mummified corpses of small animals littered the floor. I shuttered to think of the dozens of animals that had ventured down into the tunnel over the years, found that it was too deep to jump or climb out, and then slowly died of starvation.
I did happen upon one inhabitant that was still alive: a black widow.
Thankfully, I returned to the surface without incident.
After exploring the Athena Launch Complex, I drove down the dirt road to check out a few more buildings on the base.
They were in very rough shape and had been thoroughly stripped.
I stopped to check out the balancing facilities Jim had told me about. There were three of them, spaced a good distance apart.
They were mostly empty.
but hoists still hung from the ceiling.
The stunning photos were taken by Jim Sullivan. Jim Sullivan is a traveler, who shares his stories with followers If you’d like to see more abandoned places, then check out our articles on the Forgotten Zzyzx Road and Health Spa Ruins and the Abandoned Movie Ranch in Acton, California