Last updated: December 10, 2021
In 1960, the USS Triton circumnavigated the globe while staying submerged, a feat never before accomplished. The Triton used two nuclear reactors for power and propulsion, enabling it to safely travel long distances underwater. The nuclear reactors that powered the Triton are direct descendants of Hanford's nuclear reactors like the B Reactor, the first full-scale nuclear reactor ever constructed.
Hanford’s innovations not only enabled the US military to produce atomic weaponry, they also made a nuclear-powered navy possible. Nuclear-powered submarines, such as the Triton, were important elements of the US defense strategy during the Cold War. They monitored Soviet nuclear activities and often carried atomic weapons of their own.
This park preserves the Triton’s sail, the top part of the submarine. When submarines are above the water’s surface, the sail serves as a command center and observation platform. Underwater, the sail provides vertical stabilization. The USS Triton was the largest and most expensive submarine ever built at the time of its construction in 1959.
It originally served as a radar picket, scanning the skies and seas to detect signs of a possible Soviet invasion but was made obsolete after two years of service by advances in aircraft technology. In 1968, the Triton was the first nuclear submarine to be taken out of service by the US Navy. From 2007 to 2009 the Triton was dismantled and recycled in Bremerton, WA. During this process, the Port of Benton acquired the Triton Sail and in 2011 installed it in this park.
On a Triton Sail tour, you can enter the sail itself, examine the original controls, and touch the periscope to get a better sense of what life was like on a Cold War era nuclear submarine. The sail also includes a well-preserved conning tower, the submarine’s command center where the captain directed attacks and navigation. From the Triton Sail parking lot, you can access the Richland Riverfront Trail and walk or bike along the Columbia River to downtown Richland. Learn more about the USS Triton Sail Park and tours.
The Department of Energy offers regular tours of the B Reactor where visitors can learn about plutonium production activities at Hanford during the Manhattan Project. The Tri-Cities has many science attractions for the whole family. Visit Tri-Cities provides a full list of science attractions in the Tri-Cities and STEM Itineraries to keep you and your family busy learning about cutting-edge science that is happening all around the area.