The original name referred to a siding for the railroad. It was named for the seasonal lake bed to the south, a long, narrow lake bed (14 miles long and less than a mile wide) that fills with the monsoon rains in the summer. The siding allowed cattle to be shipped along the railroad (photo by B. Alvarius of Sky Gypsies).
When the railroad was abandoned, the siding was discontinued. In the mid 1970's, Phelps Dodge built a company town for its copper smelter with 300 homes, rows of apartments, an airstrip, a bowling alley, mercantile, swimming pool, post office, clinic, and parks for its employees.
In 1999, the smelter closed because of falling copper prices and employees left the town site. It remained virtually empty until 2003, New Mexico Tech (New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico) purchased the entire town and some surrounding land for $5 million. Its plans to turn Playas into an anti-terrorist and security training facility are now realized.
About 90 employees worked for Playas Training and Research Facility, an affiliate of NMT's Energetic Materials Research and Test Center (EMRTC), until June of 2012, when all but a skeleton crew were laid off. Currently, it is used by contractors and not staffed full-time by EMRTC.
Population few residents, periodic contractors and customers
Playas Peak overlooks the town site, a 5,864' mountain in the lower Little Hatchet range.
Access is controlled and restricted.