By Russ and Tiña De Maris
With the August 21 eclipse getting closer, state and national parks in the path of the solar event’s totality are ramping up for huge crowds. Planning on watching the eclipse but unsure of where to go? Here’s a resource that you may not have thought of: U.S. National Wildlife Refuges.
More than a dozen national wildlife refuges are in the “path of totality” during the eclipse, the first in the United States since 1979. The projected path of the event reaches from the Oregon Coast across the nation to the coast of South Carolina. A string of the country’s wildlife refuges is in the prime viewing area.
Refuges in the direct path of the eclipse include:
Pacific Northwest (first U.S. viewing area)
Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
Camas National Wildlife Refuge, Idaho
National Elk Refuge, Wyoming
Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Nebraska
Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri
Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri
Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Missouri
Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois and Missouri
Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois
Southeast (last U.S. viewing area)
Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, Kentucky
Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge, Tennessee
Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia and South Carolina
Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina
Each refuge will have designated public parking and viewing areas. The number of parking spots will vary by site or refuge complex. You’d be wise to check with refuges for details. Refuges are open from dawn to dusk. Overnight camping or parking is allowed in only some refuges. And because the eclipse is occurring during the height of wildfire season, plans may need to change at short notice to protect public safety.
Here are few “area specific” tidbits:
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.
National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyoming, warns they’re expecting lots of company. Be sure to have your accommodations arranged prior to arrival. 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. 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.
Finally, here’s a web resource to help you find national wildlife refuges near your home or travel destination. Click on the state, then click the refuge name to visit each refuge website and learn about all there is to see and do. You can also find refuges by state, alphabetical refuge list, zip code and more.
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service