With 91 percent of the park’s 3.4 million acres designated as wilderness and prohibited to development, Death Valley’s dry climate, clean air and expansive horizons make it one of the best places on the planet to see meteor showers and lunar eclipses.
The town of Borrego Springs, population 3,429, may not offer skies as pristine as those of a national park, but as the second community in the world designated a Dark Sky Place, Borrego residents have worked with local businesses to install motion-sensor lights, redirect outdoor lighting and educate the public about the value of dark skies.
Located in northwest Arizona on the edge of the Grand Canyon, the monument was awarded Dark Sky recognition in March and is the first Bureau of Land Management-managed site to receive the distinction.
Home to one of the country’s largest public telescopes, this tiny five-acre state park is only two hours from Portland, making it one of the best stargazing spots within striking distance of a major metropolitan center.
Natural Bridges became the country’s first Dark Sky Park in 2007. Nomination letters describe its view of the Milky Way as with “intricate detail resembling veined marble” and point to the cultural significance of the night sky: “Standing at one of the park’s many archeological sites, one can easily imagine another human centuries earlier gazing awestruck into the same universe.”
Designated last year, 99 percent of the park is without permanent outdoor lighting. Rangers have inventoried existing night sky conditions to use as a baseline for a continuing monitoring program.
Nearby schools bring students to these rolling northeastern New Mexico grasslands to learn about the stars, while local hotels promote dark sky tourism.