Exploring the Blackest State in America: Dark Skies of Idaho
Light pollution is a growing problem that affects millions of people worldwide. The United States has some of the highest levels of light pollution in the world, and it is estimated that 80 percent of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their homes. However, there are some places in the country where the night skies are still dark and beautiful, and people can see the stars and other celestial objects clearly.
The Dark Sky Reserve
The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is the largest dark sky reserve in the United States, covering over 1.5 million acres of pristine wilderness. It was designated as a reserve in 2017 by the International Dark-Sky Association, recognizing its exceptional stargazing opportunities and the efforts made to preserve the night skies.
The reserve includes the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and parts of the Boise, Challis, and Salmon-Challis National Forests. Its rugged landscape is punctuated by towering peaks, deep valleys, and crystal-clear lakes and rivers. The area is also home to numerous wildlife species, including elk, deer, moose, wolves, and grizzly bears.
Stargazing in the reserve is a breathtaking experience, as the Milky Way stretches across the sky like a shimmering ribbon. The reserve also offers a variety of stargazing events and programs throughout the year, including guided night hikes, astronomy talks and workshops, and night photography workshops.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is another spectacular dark sky destination in Idaho. Located in the southern part of the state, it is a vast expanse of volcanic landscapes, with lava fields, cinder cones, and lava tubes that give it an otherworldly appearance.
The area is also home to some of the darkest skies in the country, and it is a popular destination for stargazing and astrophotography. Visitors can explore the wilderness on foot or by car, and there are several viewpoints and observation areas that offer clear views of the night sky.
One of the highlights of stargazing at Craters of the Moon is the annual Dark Sky Festival, which takes place every August. The festival features astronomy talks, stargazing parties, and other activities that celebrate the beauty and mystery of the night sky.
City of Rocks National Reserve
The City of Rocks National Reserve is a unique and stunning landscape located in the southeastern part of Idaho. It is a vast expanse of granite formations that rise up from the desert floor, creating a maze of spires, arches, and domes. The reserve is also home to some of the darkest skies in the state, making it a popular destination for stargazers and photographers.
Visitors can explore the reserve on foot or by car, and there are several hiking trails that lead to stunning vistas and viewpoints. The reserve also offers a variety of stargazing programs and events throughout the year, including full-moon hikes, astronomy talks, and stargazing parties.
Experiencing the Night Sky in Idaho
Idaho is a state of contrasts, with vast expanses of wilderness and rugged mountains that offer some of the best stargazing opportunities in the country. Whether you want to explore the dark skies of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, the otherworldly landscapes of Craters of the Moon, or the stunning granite formations of the City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho has something for everyone.
Experiencing the night sky is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience that reminds us of our place in the universe. It is also a reminder of the fragility of our planet and the need to preserve the natural beauty and darkness of the night sky. By visiting and supporting these dark sky destinations, we can help ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the beauty and wonder of the night sky for years to come.