Moon Shadow


2017 eclipse

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.


path of eclipse
More than a dozen national wildlife refuges are in the path of totality of the August 21 solar eclipse. That means they will experience the full blockage of the sun during the two to three minutes of the eclipse. (Map: Liz Cruz/USFWS)

Refuges in the direct path of the eclipse include:

Pacific Northwest (first U.S. viewing area)

Mountain-Prairie region 


Southeast (last U.S. viewing area)

Total solar eclipse
This diagram shows how the moon lines up with the sun during a solar eclipse and briefly blocks the sun from sight along the path of totality. (Image: NASA)

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.

A simplified graph charts the decline of honeybees
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region put plans in place early for six national wildlife refuges in the total eclipse path in the Northwest. (Map: Liz Cruz/USFWS)

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:

  • Each refuge will have designated public parking and viewing areas. The number of parking spots will vary by site or refuge complex. (For example, the three refuges in the Willamette Valley Refuge Complex — Baskett Slough, Ankeny and William L. Finley — will provide parking for 506 vehicles.) Please check with your local refuge for details.
  • Parts of refuges may be closed to protect threatened or endangered plants or animals or because these areas may pose safety or fire hazards. Please respect these limits.
  • Refuges are open from dawn to dusk. Overnight camping or parking is not permitted.
  • Because the eclipse is occurring during the height of wildfire season, plans may need to change at short notice to protect public safety.

concern for scarce habitat
Concern for the scarce habitat of some wildlife species, including this rare Oregon silverspot butterfly, may limit visitor numbers at some refuges. (Photo: USFWS)

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.

Brian Lubinski
Jackson, Wyoming — home of National Elk Refuge and its historic Miller Ranch (shown) — is bracing for record crowds during eclipse week. If you’re headed there or nearby Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks, and haven’t nailed down lodging, you’re probably out of luck. (Photo: B.J. Baker, National Elk Refuge volunteer)

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

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.

Ricardo Colon-Merced
This visualization shows how the solar eclipse would look from space. (Image: NASA)

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 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.

shadow of the 2012 solar eclipse from space
This photo shows the shadow of the 2012 solar eclipse from space. (Photo: NASA)

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.

Compiled by , August 2, 2017