From coast to coast, excitement is building around the solar eclipse coming August 21, 2017. This photo offers a preview. It was taken November 13, 2012, during a total solar eclipse visible only from the Southern Hemisphere. (Photo: Courtesy of Romeo Durscher/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
It’s on its way: the nation’s first total solar eclipse since 1979 and the first visible coast to coast (weather permitting) from all states in the lower 48 since 1918. The blackout will last less than three minutes, but the fanfare is sure to go longer. In many places, hotels and campsites have been booked for months.
The projected path of the August 21 event reaches from the Oregon Coast clear across to the coast of South Carolina. A string of national wildlife refuges is in the prime viewing area. What can you expect if you head to one or another of them? Here’s the scoop.
Refuges in the direct path of the eclipse include:
Pacific Northwest (first U.S. viewing area)
Southeast (last U.S. viewing area)
What can you hope to see from along the eclipse path, weather permitting? This page from NASA will give you a good idea,
On the ground, thousands of photographers will have their tripods and long lenses ready, in hopes of capturing images of the rare event. The University of California at Berkeley and Google hope to stitch some of these photos together into a coast-to-coast video that can inform scientists. Learn more about the Eclipse Megamovie Project.
The Pacific Northwest, with six publicly accessible refuges in the total eclipse path and some of the best weather prospects once off the coast, is bracing for crowds.
“It’s a pretty big deal, especially in Oregon where the best chance of seeing the eclipse occurs,” says Erin Holmes, deputy supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region. The region has created its own web page and blog about the event.
The region has also drawn up eclipse-related guidelines for its refuges. Expect similar guidelines to apply in other regions. The overall aim on refuges will be to welcome eclipse viewers – and share their excitement – while maintaining public safety.
To that end:
Oregon Coast refuges (Siletz Bay and Nestucca Bay) will cap eclipse visitor numbers at 200 to protect habitat for the fragile Oregon silverspot butterfly. Refuge staff, volunteers and partners have been restoring that habitat for years to prepare for the reintroduction of the federally threatened butterfly at Nestucca Bay Refuge.
Larvae of the butterfly develop on only one plant: early blue violet. The Oregon Zoo and Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo are boosting wild Oregon silverspot populations with captive-raised pupae.
Other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regions and refuges are gearing up, too.
Thinking of heading to National Elk Refuge or nearby Jackson, Wyoming? So are lots of others. Expect slow traffic and long travel times during eclipse week, cautions refuge visitor services specialist Lori Iverson. Be sure to have your accommodations arranged prior to arrival; most hotels and campgrounds are already booked. (Camping and overnight parking are not allowed on National Elk Refuge.) Bring ample food and water, in case local supplies run short or traffic congestion makes supply runs difficult. The primary planning site for visitors to the Jackson Hole area that week is http://tetoneclipse.com/.
In southern Illinois, Crab Orchard Refuge is anticipating spillover from Moonstock, a solar eclipse-themed, four-day music festival set to take place nearby. Headliner Ozzy Osbourne is scheduled to sing “Bark at the Moon” just as the moon’s shadow covers the sun. The refuge will waive entrance fees that day. Look for more information on the refuge website as the date approaches.
Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, 30 miles northwest of St. Joseph, Missouri, will host a solar eclipse watch party. The event will feature information on nighttime wildlife as well as the eclipse. A limited number of viewing glasses will be available.
If you plan to catch the eclipse firsthand, be sure to do it safely. The Department of the Interior offers good tips on this.
Most important: Avoid looking directly at the sun. The only time you can do that without risking permanent eye damage is when the face of the sun is totally obscured by the moon. Sunglasses or even eclipse-viewing glasses may not provide adequate protection. One of the safest, easiest ways to view an eclipse is by projecting its image onto a piece of white paper. Here’s how. You can also find a good description here.
For a good overall eclipse resource, including best places to see the eclipse and eclipse basics, see GreatAmericanEclipse.com. Travel the path of the eclipse in an annotated map and visualization by The Washington Post.
Or check out NASA’s eclipse site, with an eclipse countdown clock.
For more solar eclipse images, including photos, visualizations and maps, see NASA’s image gallery.
See a list of national wildlife refuges that offer camping.