Total Solar Eclipse over Grand Teton National Park August 2017

People watching a solar eclipse

Don’t miss out on the celestial event on August 21, 2017.

Residents near Grand Teton National Park should prepare for the mystifying total solar eclipse on August 21. This eclipse is the first total solar eclipse in America’s lower 48 states in over 38 years. The last eclipse to grace North America was in 1979, which shadowed the Pacific Northwest and central Canada. Meanwhile, the total solar eclipse in August will be viewable for a 67-mile wide stretch beginning in Oregon and ending in South Carolina. Eclipses have been a bewildering phenomenon to ancient cultures and remain exclusive even in the present.

“When I see [the eclipse] I will think about ancient cultures experiencing these events and wondering what the heck is going on?” says David Brain, an assistant professor of astrophysics and planetary services at the University of Colorado Boulder. “The incredible amount of ingenuity it took some ancient culture to predict solar eclipses, which is absolutely amazing”

If you miss this year’s eclipse, be prepared to wait another seven years for the next total solar eclipse in North America happening in 2024.

Viewing the eclipse over Grand Teton National Park

Locals near Jackson and the southern ridge of Grand Teton National Park are in a spectacular location for viewing the total solar eclipse. On Monday, August 21, the centerline of the eclipse will pass over Grand Teton National Park. The eclipse will begin around 10:17 a.m. over Jackson Hole and Grand Teton by 11:35 p.m. Both will fall under the path of totality and experience up to two minutes and 20 seconds of the total solar eclipse. The park expects the day of the eclipse to be one of the most occupied times in the year.

“I’m hearing talk of anywhere from 25,000 to 75,000 above a normal day,” says a park official at Grand Teton National Park. “All lodging in and around Jackson is reserved and has been filled for quite some time.”

The park plans to reroute trails and roads depending on the amount of traffic that day. The park staffers advise making preparations before the eclipse. Winging it on eclipse day won’t go according to plan.

“Come very early, stake out a spot and plan to be there for a day,” says a park official. “If you want to get around the park further, a bicycle is a good idea. I have a feeling it is going to be very difficult to drive around the park that day.”

Make sure to purchase eclipse glasses before viewing the eclipse. There will be eclipse glasses sold at the Grand Teton Visitor Center stores for 50 cents. Campgrounds at the park are on a first-come, first-serve basis, even on the day of the eclipse. However, the park advises you’ll be hardpressed to get a spot.

“Campgrounds are first-come, first-serve so they will not have any reservations going on for that day,” says a staff member at Grand Teton Visitor Center. “I would not expect to show up that day and get a spot because there is a stay limit. People will be coming in early to get those campground spots.”

However, park officials advised those looking for campgrounds to check into the campsites at Bighorn National Forest. If you’re still debating coming to Grand Teton to view the eclipse, you may be missing out.

“Anywhere along the line of totality area and above the path of totality is going to be phenomenal, but there is just that added extra of the natural scenic area of Grand Teton,” says a park official.

Eclipses That Altered History

Chinese dragon

Eclipses are a rather cosmic experience and in history were regarded as a sign of bad omens.

“[Eclipses] are a short event but deeply affecting and very upsetting,” says Erica Ellingson, a professor of astrophysics and planetary services at the University of Colorado Boulder. “If you did not know it was coming, it would be just terrifying to have the sun go away.”

Today, we know total solar eclipses are relatively harmless and more of a sky gazing experience. However, that wasn’t the case with the Chinese and their history with eclipses.

“The Chinese called it a dragon eating the sun,” says Ellingson. “Many people, whether they knew it was coming or not, would go outside beat drums, make noise, throw rocks, do whatever they could to in order to discourage the dragon to drop the sun and bring it back to us.”

The eclipse viewers at Grand Teton may not witness a dragon eating the sun, but there is usually a fair amount of camaraderie during eclipses. The park anticipates the eclipse day to be one of the busiest days of the year. Being proactive for the eclipse on August 21 will be crucial to viewing the eclipse. If you miss the one in August you’ll have to wait for the next North American eclipse in seven years.

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Vincent GuiebVincent Guieb is a writer for National Park Trips Media who studied Journalism at University of Colorado Boulder. You can find him crate digging for film cameras and vintage clothing and standing around in bookstores. Follow him on Instagram @vinceafterdark.