20 wildlife refuges in path of solar eclipse

Refuges in the path of the August 21 eclipse. Map by Liz Cruz/U.S. FWS
Refuges in the path of the August 21 eclipse. Map by Liz Cruz/U.S. FWS

What do birds and other wildlife do in near total darkness when it comes during daytime hours? You can find out. More than a dozen national wildlife refuges are in the path of totality during the August 21 total solar eclipse, the first in the United States since 1979. The blackout will last less than three minutes ― and you can be part of the excitement and the science.

The projected path of the event reaches from the Oregon coast to the coast of South Carolina. National wildlife refuges in the prime viewing area include:

Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon (Hotspot Near You No. 127)
Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon (Hotspot Near You No. 48)
William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon (Hotspot Near You No. 120)
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 (PDF), Illinois
Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, Kentucky
Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge, Tennessee
Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina
• Santee National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia and South Carolina
Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina

The U.S. Department of the Interior offers tips on how to catch the eclipse safely. Most importantly, 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.

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 citizen science photos through the Eclipse Megamovie Project that can inform scientists with a continuous dataset from coast to coast.

Solar eclipse by Muratart/Shutterstock

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Northwest, with six publicly accessible refuges in the total eclipse path and some of the best inland weather prospects, is bracing for crowds. The region has a web page and blog about the event. The Pacific Northwest refuges are working to welcome eclipse viewers ― and share their excitement ― while maintaining public safety.

• Each refuge will have designated public parking and viewing areas. The number of parking spots will vary by site or refuge complex. 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, except at Crab Orchard.

• Because the eclipse is occurring during the height of wildfire season, plans may need to change at short notice to protect public safety.

Oregon coast refuges (Siletz Bay and Nestucca Bay) will cap eclipse visitor numbers at 200 to protect habitat for the fragile Oregon silverspot butterfly.

Thinking of heading to National Elk Refuge or nearby Jackson, Wyoming? So are lots of others. 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 tetoneclipse.com.

In southern Illinois, Crab Orchard National Wildlife 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 an 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.

For public events and an eclipse 101, check out NASA online.


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