Photos of the
TULELAKE AFS AN/FPS-118 OTH-B RADAR FACILITY

Image of sign: TULELAKE AFS CA OTH-B RADAR, NORTHWEST AIR DEFENSE SECTOR

Part of what was once arguably the world's largest radar system, the Over The Horizon Backscatter Radar (OTH-B) facilities near Christmas Valley, Oregon (transmitter) and Tulelake, California (receiver) are now part of Cold War memories.

OTH-B radar was developed to detect approaching Soviet bombers and cruise missiles while they were still thousands of miles out over the Pacific Ocean. However, the west coast facility was never put into operation because the Cold War ended just as it was being brought on line. A similar facility in Maine was built prior to this one and had been operational for several years. 

Following the Cold War, the east coast facility was used by NOAAH to monitor weather and sea conditions in the Atlantic Ocean. However, the cost to operate the facility was quite high, and it was eventually shut down.

April 20, 2007: Demolition crews have been busy at the radar site

They have torn down (literally) all three 65 ft. high x 8,000 ft. long backscreens with their 549 supporting towers and framework.1

As of this writing, the wire screens (think hogwire fence stretched across three, 1-1/2 mile long, 65 foot tall fences) are now nothing but mountains of spaghetti piled up on the field of one of the receivers.

The steel towers and framework that once stood tall and proud have been chopped into bite-sized pieces and neatly stacked in several piles. An excavator with an electromagnet was standing by to load the now-scrap steel into a semi-trailer dump truck, and a section of the wooden fence at one end of Segment 4 has been removed, replaced with a chain link gate for vehicular access.

Although pictures don't do the size of this complex justice, what follows are photos taken at various times since my initial visit while Geocaching in February 2006.

UPDATE 6/12/07: All but one pile of the scrap has been hauled to a railroad reload site at Perez siding and is being transloaded into gondola cars for shipment to a scrap yard/recycler. The acres of ground screen have been disturbed in all three segments but has not yet been pulled up.  The fences and remains of the concrete footings for the towers still remain. 

In driving along the boundary road next to the fences I felt like I was passing next to a rural airfield.  Nothing but a wide open expanse inside the fences - although I'd hate to have to land a plane there, what with the remains of concrete footings and wrinkled groundscreen still in place!

UPDATE 7/11/07: The work is done and the contractors and equipment have left the building.  (Well, actually, they left all three buildings - no pun intended.  The buildings still stand.) The microwave tower adjacent to the Segment 4 building remains, as seen in the photos on the next page.  They have replaced the temporary chain link access gate with the original wooden fence section they had removed, left the concrete footings and the ground screens in place and locked the gates behind them.

UPDATE 2/8/10:  I was in the area so I cruised out to the facility.  Nothing visible has changed there since my last visit.

UPDATE 10/25/10:  This location has been submitted and accepted as a waymark on waymarking.com

GOOGLE MAPS

Transmitter site near Christmas Valley, Oregon:


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Receiver site near Tulelake, California:


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Continue to photo album

 

Footnotes
1: Quantifying details source: http://www.accplanning.org/documents/EAs/EA_merged_08_05.pdf

Links to more information about the Over the Horizon Backscatter radar system:

Photos and text on this site Copyright © 2006-10, Craig Bass except as noted.