CODY, WYO. — Late this summer, the stars will align for an event that is likely to result in one of the busiest tourist days in Wyoming history. Well, at least one star will align.
A total solar eclipse will be visible Mon., Aug. 21 across a coast-to-coast swath of the U.S., and Wyoming is poised to host a major influx of visitors seeking the best vantage and weather for the rare celestial display.
Skywatchers who want to see the best alignment of the moon passing directly in front of the sun — known as totality — will have to watch from within an approximately 70-mile wide band that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina.
Fortunately for Wyoming, that path crosses directly over Jackson, Thermopolis, Dubois, Casper, Lander, Douglas, Torrington and several other towns. In fact, hotels in many communities are already fully booked more than six months out. That has left tourism boosters scrambling to find room for visitors, many of whom are looking to nearby towns outside of the path of totality for overflow or more affordable lodging.
The town of Jackson and the southern part of Grand Teton National Park are in the path of totality, and eclipse watchers seeking a picturesque natural setting have been booking there well in advance.
Kate Foster from the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce said visitors have been calling since 2013 to make reservations for the eclipse, and the town is “pretty much fully booked, especially considering August is usually near 100 percent occupancy for us in a normal year.”
“It’s crazy; I don’t have the words to describe it,” Foster said. “People are traveling from all over the world, and they’re looking for other things to do while they’re here.”
Grand Teton National Park will be a particularly popular spot for eclipse watchers, said spokeswoman Denise Germann.
“For many of us, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re anticipating big numbers, so we’re planning some special ranger-led programs,” she said.
Germann said the park is still working out details, but programs are likely to include astronomy talks and skywatching events led by Bob Hoyle, a former professor of astronomy and park ranger naturalist who has led a number of popular Grand Teton astronomy sessions in the past.
Though Yellowstone National Park will lie just north of the path of totality, the park is still expecting increased visitation and will also offer special programs, said spokeswoman Linda Young.
Young said she was not aware of any plans to limit travel into or within the park around the time of the eclipse.
Nearby tourist destinations like Cody are already seeing overflow bookings, with hotels filling and rates rising early for a weekend that usually sees a slight dip in summer business, as kids start returning to school toward the end of summer.
Claudia Wade, marketing director for the Park County Travel Council, said the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce would make special glasses available that will allow visitors to safely view the eclipse. Viewing partial segments of the eclipse without proper eyewear can result in permanent retinal damage.
The next total solar eclipse visible from the U.S. will be in 2024, and totality will not be visible from Wyoming or other Western states.
If you go…
This summer’s total solar eclipse will be visible at certain locations throughout Wyoming between between about 11:30-11:45 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 21. Special glasses or filters are needed to safely view the event. Visit nasa.gov/eclipse for more information.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].